Object recognition was investigated in adult and aging male rats in a two-trials, unrewarded, test that assessed a form of working-episodic memory. Exploration time in the first trial, in which two copies of the same object were presented, was recorded. In the second trial, in which one of the familiar objects and a new object were presented, the time spent exploring the two objects was separately recorded and a discrimination index was calculated. Adult rats explored the new object longer than the familiar object when the intertrial time ranged from 1 to 60 min. Rats older than 20 months of age did not discriminate between familiar and new objects. Object discrimination was lost in adult rats after scopolamine (0.2 mg/kg SC) administration and with lesions of the nucleus basalis, resulting in a 40% decrease in cortical ChAT activity. Both aniracetam (25, 50, 100 mg/kg os) and oxiracetam (50 mg/kg os) restored object recognition in aging rats, in rats treated with scopolamine, and with lesions of the nucleus basalis. In the rat, object discrimination appears to depend on the integrity of the cholinergic system, and nootropic drugs can correct its disruption.