In an attempt to gain some insight into possible approaches to reducing age-related memory disturbances, aged Fischer 344 rats were administered either vehicle, choline, piracetam or a combination of choline or piracetam. Animals in each group were tested behaviorally for retention of a one trial passive avoidance task, and biochemically to determine changes in choline and acetylcholine levels in hippocampus, cortex and striatum. Previous research has shown that rats of this strain suffer severe age-related deficits on this passive avoidance task and that memory disturbances are at least partially responsible. Those subjects given only choline (100 mg/kg) did not differ on the behavioral task from control animals administered vehicle. Rats given piracetam (100 mg/kg) performed slightly better than control rats (p less than 0.05), but rats given the piracetam/choline combination (100 mg/kg of each) exhibited retention scores several times better than those given piracetam alone. In a second study, it was shown that twice the dose of piracetam (200 mg/kg) or choline (200 mg/kg) alone, still did not enhance retention nearly as well as when piracetam and choline (100 mg/kg of each) were administered together. Further, repeated administration (1 week) of the piracetam/choline combination was superior to acute injections. Regional determinations of choline and acetylcholine revealed interesting differences between treatments and brain area. Although choline administration raised choline content about 50% in striatum and cortex, changes in acetylcholine levels were much more subtle (only 6-10%). No significant changes following choline administration were observed in the hippocampus. However, piracetam alone markedly increased choline content in hippocampus (88%) and tended to decrease acetylcholine levels (19%). No measurable changes in striatum or cortex were observed following piracetam administration. The combination of choline and piracetam did not potentiate the effects seen with either drug alone, and in certain cases the effects were much less pronounced under the drug combination. These data are discussed as they relate to possible effects of choline and piracetam on cholinergic transmission and other neuronal function, and how these effects may reduce specific memory disturbances in aged subjects. The results of these studies demonstrate that the effects of combining choline and piracetam are quite different than those obtained with either drug alone and support the notion that in order to achieve substantial efficacy in aged subjects it may be necessary to reduce multiple, interactive neurochemical dysfunctions in the brain, or affect activity in more than one parameter of a deficient metabolic pathway.