The present study was designed to determine whether the memory sparing effects of dietary restriction during aging could be through an effect on ionotropic glutamate receptors. Quantitative autoradiography was performed on 3, 10, and 26 month old mice to examine the density changes of NMDA, AMPA and kainate binding sites in aging animals. Spatial memory performance was also tested in these mice with the use of the Morris water maze. The 10 and 26 month olds were either ad libitum-fed or diet-restricted (60% of ad libitum-fed calories). Ad libitum-fed, 26 month old mice had significant decreases in NMDA-displaceable [3H]glutamate in all ten cortical, two out of seven hippocampal, and two out of four subcortical regions, as compared to 3 month olds. Diet-restricted, 26 month old mice only differed significantly from young in three cortical and two subcortical regions. The aged ad libitum-fed mice exhibited significantly poorer performance in the spatial memory task than all other groups. The diet-restricted 26 month olds only performed significantly worse than 3 month olds and diet-restricted 10 month olds. These results suggest that some of the memory sparing effects of dietary restriction on aged animals may be due to an influence on NMDA receptors.