We describe a new algorithm for the automated segmentation of the hippocampus (Hc) and the amygdala (Am) in clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. Based on homotopically deforming regions, our iterative approach allows the simultaneous extraction of both structures, by means of dual competitive growth. One of the most original features of our approach is the deformation constraint based on prior knowledge of anatomical features that are automatically retrieved from the MRI data. The only manual intervention consists of the definition of a bounding box and positioning of two seeds; total execution time for the two structures is between 5 and 7 min including initialisation. The method is evaluated on 16 young healthy subjects and 8 patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) for whom the atrophy ranged from limited to severe. Three aspects of the performances are characterised for validating the method: accuracy (automated vs. manual segmentations), reproducibility of the automated segmentation and reproducibility of the manual segmentation. For 16 young healthy subjects, accuracy is characterised by mean relative volume error/overlap/maximal boundary distance of 7%/84%/4.5 mm for Hc and 12%/81%/3.9 mm for Am; for 8 Alzheimer's disease patients, it is 9%/84%/6.5 mm for Hc and 15%/76%/4.5 mm for Am. We conclude that the performance of this new approach in data from healthy and diseased subjects in terms of segmentation quality, reproducibility and time efficiency compares favourably with that of previously published manual and automated segmentation methods. The proposed approach provides a new framework for further developments in quantitative analyses of the pathological hippocampus and amygdala in MRI scans.