The effects of oxiracetam on hippocampally-mediated learning performance and hippocampal protein kinase C (PKC) were examined in C57BL/6Ibg (C57) and DBA/2Ibg (DBA) mice. C57 and DBA mice were subjected to daily injections of oxiracetam (50 mg/kg i.p.) or vehicle (0.9% saline) for a total of 9 days. C57 and DBA mice were examined on a modified version of the Morris water maze task and the contextual fear conditioning task on the last 5 or 2 days, respectively, of the 9-day treatment schedule. When compared with controls, C57 and DBA oxiracetam-treated mice showed no difference in motor skill capability to perform these complex learning tasks (swim speed or ability to freeze). Hippocampal PKC activity was measured in cytosolic, loosely-bound, and membrane-bound homogenate fractions. Oxiracetam-treated DBA mice demonstrated a significant increase in spatial learning performance as determined by the Morris task. DBA performance was also improved in contextual learning as determined by the fear conditioning task. The increase in spatial learning performance was correlated to an increase in membrane-bound PKC. No substantial improvements in C57 mice were observed on either learning task nor did hippocampal PKC activity change in response to oxiracetam treatment. These data demonstrate that the learning impairment of DBA mice can be reversed by treatment with a nootropic agent and support previous studies suggesting that PKC may be one mechanism of action for oxiracetam.