An efficient method for the unbiased estimation of the total number of neurons in rat brain cortex is presented. The method is reasonable fast, the counting procedure takes 2-3 h per rat, and gives an estimate of the total neuron number in cortex cerebri with an CE of 0.10. The rat cerebral cortex is found to have a mean volume of 253 mm3 and to contain a mean of 21 million neurons. The method has been used in a neurotoxicologic study, in which rats were given toluene perorally in doses of 200, 400 and 800 mg/kg/day, respectively, for 12 weeks, followed by an exposure-free period of 4 weeks. The total number of neurons in rat brain cortex cerebri showed no significant difference between exposed and non-exposed animals. The applicability of the method is discussed.