Decreased density of neurons was found throughout the head of the caudate nucleus in Huntington's disease (HD), with the most severe neuronal loss early in the disease in the medial region. The density of reactive astrocytes is inversely proportional to the neuronal loss. In cases of mild Huntington's disease which had no identifiable abnormality on conventional neuropathologic evaluation (grade 0), there is a reduction in neuron density without an accompanying reactive astrocytosis. The pattern for decrease in neurons and accompanying astrocytosis suggests that the earliest changes occur in the most medial portion of the head of the caudate nucleus and subsequently sweep laterally across the caudate nucleus to the internal capsule. An increased density of oligodendrocytes is observed in the head of the caudate nucleus for the lower grades (0, 1 and 2). The decreased neuronal and increased oligodendroglial densities may be of significance in understanding the pathogenesis of HD. These altered densities, observed in the absence of reactive astrocytosis, suggest that these changes may not represent recent effects of disease, but rather that HD gene expression may influence brain cell densities from early in the life of the gene carrier.