Aniracetam is a member of the nootropic class of drugs, which have possible cognition enhancing effects. It appears to positively modulate metabotropic glutamate receptors and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)-sensitive glutamate receptors, and may facilitate cholinergic transmission, effects which are possibly related to its mechanism of action. Results from trials in elderly patients with mild to moderate cognitive impairment due to senile dementia of the Alzheimer type suggest that aniracetam may be of benefit, with further trials required to confirm its efficacy profile and to define more precisely those patients most likely to respond to treatment. Aniracetam 1500 mg/day was significantly more effective than placebo in all tests at 4 and 6 months, and in a further 6-month trial was more effective than piracetam 2400 mg/day in 8 of 18 tests. Preliminary evidence in the treatment of patients with cognitive impairment of cerebrovascular origin suggests aniracetam may also be of benefit in this condition. Whilst incidence rates of adverse effects are not yet available, data from trials suggest aniracetam is well tolerated. In particular, aniracetam does not appear to cause increases in liver enzyme levels. The evaluation of drugs for patients with senile cognitive disorders is a difficult area and therapeutic options are currently limited. Preliminary evidence of the potential benefits and good tolerability profile of aniracetam support continued evaluation of its use in patients with mild to moderate senile dementia of the Alzheimer type.