This review addresses the importance of animal models for understanding the effects of normal aging on the brain and cognitive functions. First, studies of laboratory animals can help to distinguish between healthy aging and pathological conditions that may contribute to cognitive decline late in life. Second, research on individual differences in aging, a theme of interest in studies of elderly human beings, can be advanced by the experimental control afforded in the use of animal models. The review offers a neuropsychological framework to compare the effects of aging in human beings, monkeys, and rodents. We consider aging in relation to the role of the medial temporal lobe in memory, the information processing functions of the prefrontal cortex in the strategic use of memory, and the regulation of attention by distributed neural circuitry. We also provide an overview of the neurobiological effects of aging that may account for alterations in psychological functions.