Modern stereological methods provide precise and reliable estimates of the number of neurons in specific regions of the brain. The total number of neurons in the neocortex and motor cortex from eight patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and nine controls was estimated. No attempt was made to estimate subpopulations of neurons such as the number of giant pyramidal cells of Betz. No difference was found in the average number of neurons in neocortex in ALS and controls, 21.7 and 22.3 x 10(9), respectively, and 1.33 and 1.29 x 10(9) in motor cortex, respectively. In the light of our stereological measurements, results obtained from in-vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS), suggesting neuronal loss in ALS, may instead be due to neuronal metabolic dysfunction and/or alteration in the size or the volume fraction of the neurons.