The total number of neurons within six subdivisions of the rat basal ganglia was estimated using unbiased stereological counting methods and systematic random sampling techniques. Six young adult rats were perfuse-fixed, their right cerebral hemispheres were embedded in glycolmethacrylate, and a complete set of serial 40-mu m sections was cut through each hemisphere. After a random start, a systematic subset (e.g., every tenth) of these sections was used to estimate the total volume of each subdivision using Cavalieri's method. The same set of sampled sections was used to estimate the number of neurons in a known subvolume (i.e., the Nv) by the optical disector method. The product of the total volume and the Nv by these methods yields an unbiased estimate of the total number of neurons. It was found that the right basal ganglia consisted, on average, of 2.79 million neostriatal or caudate-putamen neurons (with a coefficient of variation of 0.07), 46,000 external globus pallidus neurons (0.11), 3,200 entopeduncular/internal globus pallidus neurons (0.10), 13,600 subthalamic neurons (0.10), 7,200 substantial nigra pars compacta neurons (0.15), and 26,300 substantia nigra pars reticulata neurons (0.07).