Two catechol O-methyltransferase inhibitors, peripherally acting entacapone and also centrally acting tolcapone, were tested regarding their capacity to influence learning and memory in adult intact rats. Tolcapone was also studied in rats treated with scopolamine, in adult rats lesioned in the nuclei basalis magnocellularis, and in aged rats. Spatial working memory performance (radial-arm maze) of intact rats was facilitated following pretraining i.p. administration of tolcapone (10 mg/kg). Entacapone was ineffective at doses of 10 and 30 mg/kg. Senescent poor performers improved their accomplishment in the spatial memory task (linear-arm maze) under the influence of tolcapone. Scopolamine (1 mg/kg) impaired working memory performance. Bilateral lesions in the nucleus basalis magnocellularis reduced choline acetyltransferase activity in the frontal cortex by 26% and retarded the learning rate of spatial place task. Tolcapone was not able to counteract the performance deficits in these models. It is concluded that tolcapone can either slightly improve or impair the memory functions depending on task specific elements and performance factors.