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DOI: 10.1101/2022.07.29.502031

Mapping the Macrostructure and Microstructure of the in vivo Human Hippocampus using Diffusion MRI

B. G.Karat J. DeKraker U. Hussain S. Kohler A. R. Khan
The hippocampus is classically divided into mesoscopic subfields which contain varying microstructure that contribute to their unique functional roles. It has been challenging to characterize this microstructure with current MR based neuroimaging techniques. In this work, we used diffusion MRI and a novel surface-based approach in the hippocampus which revealed distinct microstructural distributions of neurite density and dispersion, T1w/T2w ratio as a proxy for myelin content, fractional anisotropy, and mean diffusivity. We used the Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging (NODDI) model optimized for gray matter diffusivity to characterize neurite density and dispersion. We found that neurite dispersion was highest in the Cornu Ammonis (CA) 1 and subiculum subfields which likely captures the large heterogeneity of tangential and radial fibers, such as the Schaffer collaterals, perforant path, and pyramidal neurons. Neurite density and T1w/T2w were highest in the subiculum and CA3 and lowest in CA1, which may reflect known myeloarchitecture differences between these subfields. Using a simple logistic regression model, we showed that neurite density, dispersion, and T1w/T2w measures provided good separability across the subfields, suggesting that they may be sensitive to the known variability in subfield cyto- and myeloarchitecture. We report macrostructural measures of gyrification, thickness, and curvature that were in line with ex vivo descriptions of hippocampal anatomy. We employed a multivariate orthogonal projective non-negative matrix factorization (OPNNMF) approach to capture co-varying regions of macro- and microstructure across the hippocampus. The clusters were highly variable along the medial-lateral (proximal-distal) direction, likely reflecting known differences in morphology, cytoarchitectonic profiles, and connectivity. Finally, we show that by examining the main direction of diffusion relative to canonical hippocampal axes, we could identify regions with stereotyped microstructural orientations that may map onto specific fiber pathways, such as the Schaffer collaterals, perforant path, fimbria, and alveus. These results highlight the value of combining in vivo diffusion MRI with computational approaches for capturing hippocampal microstructure, which may provide useful features for understanding cognition and for diagnosis of disease states.