Aluminium has toxic effects on many organ systems of the human body. Aluminium toxicity also is a factor in many neurodegenerative diseases. We investigated changes in numbers of hippocampal neurons in rats exposed to aluminium using an optical fractionator and we investigated aluminium-induced apoptosis using the transferase mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay. Twenty-four female rats were divided equally into control, sham and aluminium-exposed groups. The control group received no treatment. The two treatment groups were injected intraperitoneally with 1 ml 0.9% saline without (sham) and with 3 mg/ml aluminium sulfate every day for two weeks. Following the treatments, the brains were removed, the left hemisphere was used for hippocampal neuron counting using an optical fractionator and the right hemisphere was investigated using hippocampal TUNEL assay to determine the apoptotic index. The number of neurons in the stratum pyramidale of the hippocampus was significantly less in the aluminium group than in the control and sham groups; there was no significant difference between the control and sham groups. The apoptotic index also was significantly higher in the aluminium group than in the other two groups. We quantified the toxic effects of aluminium on the rat hippocampus and determined that apoptosis was the mechanism of aluminium-induced neuron death in the hippocampus.