Early involvement of the hippocampal formation is the biological basis of the typical learning deficit in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the hippocampal formation is unevenly affected by AD pathology, deposits of plaques and tangles being particularly dense in the CA1 field and subiculum. The aim of the study was to locate in vivo the structural changes within the hippocampal formation in AD patients of mild to moderate severity. A group of 28 AD patients and 40 cognitively intact persons (age 74 ± 9 and 71 ± 7 years) underwent T1-weighted high-resolution MR scans. The hippocampal formation was isolated by manually tracing on 35 coronal slices the outlines of the hippocampus proper and subiculum after registration to a common stereotactic space. Group differences were assessed with algorithms developed ad hoc that make use of three-dimensional parametric surface mesh models. In AD patients, significant atrophic changes amounting to tissue loss of 20% or more were found in regions of the hippocampal formation corresponding to the CA1 field and part of the subiculum. Regions corresponding to the CA2–3 fields were remarkably spared. We conclude that the regions of the hippocampal formation that we found atrophic in AD patients are those known to be affected from pathological studies. This study supports the possibility of carrying out in vivo macroscopic neuropathology of the hippocampus with MR imaging in the neurodegenerative dementias.