Vertical integration is being used to great advantage in neurobiological research on the basis of age-related cognitive decline. Such research bridges analysis between the molecular and cellular levels and the outcome of impaired psychological functions. Current use of animals models within this paradigm has defined mild cognitive impairment in a subpopulation of outbred aged Long-Evans rats by assessment of hippocampal-dependent spatial cognition. Aged rats with cognitive impairment exhibited no loss of neurons in the hippocampus. Current research is focused on the functional alterations in neurons by methods which assess transcriptional mechanisms and signaling pathways.