Constituents extracted from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree possess beneficial properties that may buffer the aging nervous system from deterioration due to oxidative stress. In the present investigation, a standardized extract of G. biloba (EGb 761) or an equal volume of the vehicle was administered (100 mg/kg/day) to senescent (20-month) C57BL/6 male mice for up to 82 consecutive days. Animals were tested twice in the Morris water maze (MWM) after 28 and 70 days of treatment. No differences were observed in acquisition or retention of performance on the water maze. Elevated-plus maze (EPM) trials were conducted prior to and subsequent to the chronic treatment regimen. Marked baseline differences in plus-maze performance were present in the first experiment. A second experiment used a matched-pairs design to minimize preexisting differences. Results supported the hypothesis that EGb 761 may serve as an antistress buffer, attenuating the increase in anxiety typically observed in animals after cold water exposure. Tissue samples from the hippocampus and cortex were analyzed by Western blot for the transcription factor cyclic-AMP response element binding (CREB) protein. EGb 761 had no significant effect on immunoreactivity to CREB from either the hippocampus or the cerebral cortex.