Inflammation with expression of interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the brain occurs in many neurodegenerative disorders. To better understand the role of IL-6 in such disorders, we examined performance in a learning task in conjunction with molecular and cellular neuropathology in transgenic mice that express IL-6 chronically from astrocytes in the brain. Transgenic mice exhibited dose- and age-related deficits in avoidance learning that closely corresponded with specific progressive neuropathological changes. These results establish a link between the central nervous system expression of IL-6, inflammatory neurodegeneration, and a learning impairment in transgenic mice. They suggest a critical role for a proinflammatory cytokine in the cognitive deficits and associated neuroinflammatory changes that have been documented in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease and AIDS.