The role of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF) in neural function has been investigated extensively in several neurodegenerative conditions, but rarely in brain aging, where cognitive and physiologic changes are milder and more variable. Here, we show that protein levels for TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) are significantly elevated in the hippocampus relative to TNF receptor 2 (TNFR2) in aged (22 months) but not young adult (6 months) Fischer 344 rats. To determine if altered TNF/TNFR1 interactions contribute to key brain aging biomarkers, aged rats received chronic (4-6 week) intracranial infusions of XPro1595: a soluble dominant negative TNF that preferentially inhibits TNFR1 signaling. Aged rats treated with XPro1595 showed improved Morris Water Maze performance, reduced microglial activation, reduced susceptibility to hippocampal long-term depression, increased protein levels for the GluR1 type glutamate receptor, and lower L-type voltage sensitive Ca(2+) channel (VSCC) activity in hippocampal CA1 neurons. The results suggest that diverse functional changes associated with brain aging may arise, in part, from selective alterations in TNF signaling.