The adult mammalian brain continues to harbor ependymal/subependymal zone (SZ) precursor cells, which can give rise to neurons in vitro. In adult rats, explants of the rostral 6-7 mm of the SZ give rise to neurons in vitro, and over this entire expanse, neuronal survival is supported specifically by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). We asked whether either the (a) spatial distribution, (b) abundance, or (c) BDNF responsiveness of the neuronal precursor population was affected by age. Explants of three rostrocaudally defined regions were taken from both young and old rats (3 and 20 months old, respectively), and cultured in 2% fetal bovine serum-containing media with or without added BDNF (20 ng/ml). The extent of neuronal production by these explants varied only minimally with their level of derivation, such that substantial outgrowth was observed at each level tested. Neuronal outgrowth was marginally higher and more rapid in achieving its maximal extent in the 3-month-old rats compared with their aged counterparts, but neuronal outgrowth was robust at each age tested. The duration of survival of SZ-derived neurons did not differ between the young and old rats. At both ages, BDNF supported the survival of these new adult neurons. The extent of BDNF's influence was independent of both the age of the donor rat and the rostrocaudal level at which the parent SZ explant was taken. Thus, the neuronal precursors of the rat brain persist into senescence; the size of the precursor pool attenuates minimally with age, and its spatial extent remains constant. The neurons generated from these precursors can respond to BDNF throughout life.