Stress, unaccompanied by signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, is known to decrease grey matter volume (GMV) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and hippocampus but not the amygdala in humans. We sought to determine if this was the case in stressed mice using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to identify the cellular constituents of the grey matter that quantitatively give rise to such changes. Stressed mice showed grey matter losses of 10 and 15 % in the ACC and hippocampus, respectively but not in the amygdala or the retrosplenial granular area (RSG). Concurrently, no changes in the number or volumes of the somas of neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes were detected. A loss of synaptic spine density of up to 60 % occurred on different-order dendrites in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) but not in the amygdala or RSG. The loss of spines was accompanied by decreases in cumulative dendritic length of neurons of over 40 % in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) giving rise to decreases in volume of dendrites of 2.6 mm(3) for the former and 0.6 mm(3) for the latter, with no change in the amygdala or RSG. These values are similar to the MRI-determined loss of GMV following stress of 3.0 and 0.8 mm(3) in ACC and hippocampus, respectively, with no changes in the amygdala or RSG. This quantitative study is the first to relate GMV changes in the cortex measured with MRI to volume changes in cellular constituents of the grey matter.