The human brain is uniquely powerful in its cognitive abilities, yet the hippocampal and neocortical circuits that mediate these complex functions are highly vulnerable during aging. In this study, we analyzed age-related changes in the rat hippocampus by studying newborn (1 month), middle-aged (12 months), and older (24 months) male and female Sprague-Dawley rats. We evaluated neuronal dystrophy, neuron scattering, and granulovacuolar degeneration in the hippocampal area using light microscopy, according to age and gender. We detected significant neuronal dystrophy in the CA1, CA2, and CA3 areas in male rats, and in the CA1, CA3, and CA4 areas in female rats. Degenerative changes, indicated by neuron scattering, were observed in the CA1, CA2, and CA3 areas of male and the CA2 and CA4 areas of female rats. Changes in all areas of the hippocampus were observed with increasing age; these changes included neuronal dystrophy and neuron scattering and did not differ significantly between male and female rats. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.