Our previous electron microscopic study of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) demonstrated ultrastructural signs of apoptosis and necrosis of oligodendroglial cells in schizophrenia (SCH) and bipolar disorder (BPD). Using optical dissector methodology, we have now conducted a morphometric study of numerical density (Nv) of oligodendroglial cells in layer VI and in adjacent white matter of Brodmann area 9 (BA 9) of the Stanley Foundation Neuropathology Consortium (SFNC). The SFNC consists of 15 cases in each of four groups: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression (MDD) and unaffected controls. A significant reduction in Nv of oligodendroglial cells was found in layer VI of subjects with schizophrenia (-25%), bipolar disorder (-29%) and major depression (-19%) as compared to controls. In adjacent white matter, there were no significant differences between groups. The data suggest that lowered density of oligodendroglial cells that occurs in schizophrenia and mood disorders could contribute to the atrophy of neurones that has been described in the prefrontal cortex of subjects with severe mental illness.