7-Oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone, which can be formed from dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) by several mammalian tissues, is more effective than its parent steroid as an inducer of thermogenic enzymes when administered to rats. Using the Morris water maze procedure, we tested DHEA and its 7-oxo-derivative for their ability to reverse the memory abolition induced by scopolamine in young C57BL/6 mice, and for their effect on memory in old mice. A single dose of 7-oxo-DHEA-acetate at 24 mg/kg b.w. completely reversed the impairment caused by 1 mg of scopolamine per kg b.w. (P < 0.001). DHEA (20 mg/kg) was also effective (P < 0.01). In old mice given the same single doses followed by feeding 0.05% of the respective steroid in the diet, memory of the water maze training was retained through a four week test period in mice receiving 7-oxo-DHEA-acetate (P < 0.05) but not in the control or DHEA-treated groups. When old mice were not tested until five weeks after being trained 7-oxo-DHEA exerted a slight, but statistically insignificant, improvement in memory retention. The possible effect of 7-oxo-DHEA in human memory problems deserves investigation.