The effects of nicergoline on basal and K(+)-stimulated release of ACh in the hippocampus of 3- and 19-month old rats has been studied by microdialysis. A significant decrease of basal ACh release (59%) was found in aged vehicle treated rats in comparison to young rats. High-K+ (100 mM) in the perfusate strongly increased the release of ACh by up to 6-fold over the baseline of both young and aged rats. Chronic oral administration of nicergoline to aged rats (5 mg/kg b.i.d. for 6 weeks) significantly reversed (93%) the age-related decrease of basal release of ACh, leaving the increase due to K+ depolarization unchanged. In young animals, nicergoline did not affect the basal output of ACh, but enhanced the K(+)-evoked release of ACh by 39%. Results from this study demonstrate that nicergoline treatment increases the ability of hippocampal cholinergic terminals to release ACh, and suggest that this drug can reset the cholinergic impairement associated with aging.