The specific molecular events that underlie the age-related loss of cognitive function are poorly understood. Although not experimentally substantiated, age-dependent neuronal loss has long been considered central to age-related cognitive decline. More recently, age-related changes in brain white matter have taken precedence in explaining the steady decline in cognitive domains seen in non-diseased elderly. Characteristic alterations in the ultrastructure of myelin coupled with evidence of inflammatory processes present in the white matter of several different species suggest that specific molecular events within brain white matter may better explain observed pathological changes and cognitive deficits. This review focuses on recent evidence highlighting the importance of white matter in deciphering the course of "normal" brain aging.