Many conditions adversely affecting learning, memory, and cognition are associated with reductions in forebrain acetylcholine (ACh), most notably aging and Alzheimer's disease. In the current study, we demonstrate that bilateral depletion of neocortical and hippocampal ACh in rats produces deficits in a spatial learning task and in a recently described, delayed visual matching-to-sample task. Oral administration of the novel nitrate, GT1061 (4-methyl-5-(2-nitroxyethyl) thiazole HCl), and the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, donepezil, reversed the cognitive deficits in both memory tasks in a dose-dependent manner. GT1061 was superior in the delayed matching-to-sample task. GT1061 was absorbed rapidly after oral administration, crossed the blood brain barrier, and achieved brain concentrations that were slightly higher than those found in plasma. The activity of GT1061 was NO mimetic: soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) was activated, but selectivity was observed for sGC in the hippocampus relative to the vasculature; and hippocampal levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2, which is a postulated intermediary in the formation of long-term memory, were increased. The beneficial effect on visual and spatial memory task performance supports the concept that stimulating the NO/sGC/cGMP signal transduction system can provide new, effective treatments for cognitive disorders. This approach may be superior to that of current drugs that attempt only to salvage the residual function of damaged cholinergic neurons.