The age-related deficit in long-term potentiation (LTP) in the dentate gyrus is positively correlated with hippocampal concentration of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta). Previous evidence also indicates that the inhibition of LTP induced by intracerebroventricular injection of amyloid-beta(1-40) (Abeta) is accompanied by increased hippocampal IL-1beta concentration and IL-1beta-stimulated signalling, specifically activation of the stress-activated protein kinase, c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). We considered that the underlying age-related neuroinflammation may render older rats more susceptible to Abeta administration and, to investigate this, young, middle-aged and aged rats were injected intracerebroventricularly with Abeta or vehicle. Hippocampal IL-1beta concentration, JNK phosphorylation, expression of the putative Abeta receptor, Receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) and the microglial cell surface marker, CD40 were assessed. We report that Abeta inhibited LTP in a concentration-dependent manner in young rats and that this was accompanied by concentration-dependent increases in hippocampal IL-1beta and expression of phosphorylated JNK, RAGE and CD40. While 20 micromol/L Abeta exerted no significant effect on LTP in young rats, it inhibited LTP in middle-aged and aged rats and the increased vulnerability of aged rats was associated with increased IL-1beta concentration. Treatment of rats with eicosapentaenoic acid attenuated the inhibitory effect of 60 micromol/L Abeta on LTP in young rats and the effect of 20 micromol/L Abeta in middle-aged and aged rats. We present evidence which indicates that the effect of eicosapentaenoic acid may be linked with its ability to stimulate activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma.