To determine the effect of age and posture on regional lung ventilation, eight young (26 +/- 1 years, mean +/- S.D.) and eight old (73 +/- 5 years) healthy men were studied by electrical impedance tomography in four body positions (sitting, supine, right and left lateral). The distribution of gas into the right and left lung regions was determined in the chest cross-section during tidal breathing at the resting lung volume, near residual volume and total lung capacity, as well as forced and slow vital capacity maneuvers. In the young, significant posture-dependent changes in gas distribution occurred during resting tidal breathing whereas they were absent in the elderly. In the older subjects, the contribution of the right lung to global ventilation fell with the transition from sitting to supine posture during both full expiration maneuvers. During forced vital capacity, the high flow rate and early airway closure in the dependent lung, occurring at higher volumes in the elderly, minimized the posture-dependency in gas distribution which was present during the slow maneuver. Our study revealed the significant effect of age on posture-dependent changes in ventilation distribution.