An important aspect of aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology includes the degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs), possibly due to disrupted nerve growth factor (NGF) signaling. Previous studies on disrupted NGF signaling have focused on changes in retrograde transport. This study focuses on two other possible mechanisms for loss of trophic support: diminished release of NGF from hippocampal neurons or diminished TrkA receptor response of BFCNs to NGF. We measured NGF levels in the effluent of hippocampal slices from young and aged rats in response to potassium chloride and glutamate. We found that release of NGF was not altered in aged hippocampal slices compared to slices from young controls. To measure the in situ response of the BFCNs to NGF, we injected NGF intraparenchymally into the right hippocampus of young and aged rats. Injections of cytochrome C served as controls. Fifteen minutes post-administration, a dramatic increase in TrkA immunoreactivity was found in the cell bodies of medial septal neurons. We found that this rapid response was blunted in aged rats compared to young adult controls. To determine whether retrograde transport was necessary for this rapid response, we injected colchicine prior to NGF injection. The NGF-induced upregulation was not blocked by colchicine, suggesting that this acute response was not dependent on classical retrograde transport. Since cholinergic degeneration coupled with altered levels of NGF and TrkA receptors are also seen in human aging and AD, the loss of acute responsivity to NGF in the BFCNs may also play a role in these processes.