The anorexia of aging syndrome in humans is characterized by spontaneous body weight loss reflecting diminished food intake. We reported previously that old rats undergoing a similar phenomenon of progressive weight loss (i.e., senescent rats) also display altered feeding behavior, including reduced meal size and duration. Here, we tested the hypothesis that blunted responsiveness to neuropeptide Y (NPY), a feeding stimulant, occurs concurrently with senescence-associated anorexia/hypophagia. Young (8 mo old, n = 9) and old (24-30 mo old, n = 11) male Fischer 344 rats received intracerebroventricular NPY or artificial cerbrospinal fluid injections. In response to a maximum effective NPY dose (10 microg), the net increase in size of the first meal after injection was similar in old weight-stable (presenescent) and young rats (10.85 +/- 1.73 and 12.63 +/- 2.52 g/kg body wt (0.67), respectively). In contrast, senescent rats that had spontaneously lost approximately 10% of body weight had significantly lower net increases at their first post-NPY meal (1.33 +/- 0.33 g/kg body wt (0.67)) than before they began losing weight. Thus altered feeding responses to NPY occur in aging rats concomitantly with spontaneous decrements in food intake and body weight near the end of life.