Despite a considerable number of investigations revealing the prefrontal cortex (PFC) to be a major site of pathological changes in schizophrenia, the neuronal basis of these alterations is still unknown. We used a 3-D image analysis technique to investigate the dendritic arborization of Golgi-impregnated prefrontal pyramidal neurons in schizophrenic patients and controls. While the apical dendrites were found to be unchanged in schizophrenics, the basilar dendritic systems were markedly reduced in the patient group. A segment analysis showed that the observed alterations were mainly confined to distal dendritic segments. The dendritic changes are likely to be associated with specific dysfunctions of prefrontal circuitry and point to the pathogenetical relevance of pre- and perinatal disturbances of PFC maturation in schizophrenic patients.