Microdensitometrical and stereological techniques were applied to study the effects of aging on the hippocampus of 3-, 6-, 12-, 18-, 24-, 30-, and 36-month-old male Brown Norway rats. Stereological analysis of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) immunoreactive glial cells in the CA1 area showed an age-dependent decrease in the number of cells, starting at 18 months of age. Specific mean gray values of the immunoreactivity for bFGF were reduced in the CA3 area, in the dentate gyrus, and in fields of the CA1 area, starting at 24 months of age. There were no differences between the age groups in the number of glial fibrillary acidic protein or glucocorticoid receptor (GR) immunoreactive cells of the CA1-CA2 areas. However, the intensity of the GR immunoreactivity was decreased in the 18-month-old and older rats. No changes in the immunoreactivity for the mineralocorticoid receptor were observed in the CA1-CA2 areas of any of the age groups. Spontaneous alternation test and reactivity in an open field did not reveal marked differences between the age groups. These findings give evidence that there is a loss of neural GR immunoreactivity, but no loss of GR immunoreactive neurons, in the CA1-CA2 areas of the aged Brown Norway rat. Aging may also be characterized by substantial deficits of glially derived growth factors, such as bFGF in the hippocampus. The changes in immunoreactivities were not correlated to alterations in selected behaviors dependent on normal hippocampal function.