Abstract Efficiency of coupling of hippocampal muscarinic receptors to phosphoinositide (PI) turnover was investigated in behaviorally characterized young and aged Long-Evans rats using hippocampal minces and the method of partial receptor alkylation of Furchgott. Densities of the m1, m2, and m3 receptor proteins were determined using specific antibodies and immunoprecipitation. Spatial learning ability was quantified using a water maze. There were no differences in the levels of muscarinic receptor proteins between young and aged (27 months) rats or in rats with impaired spatial learning. The dissociation constant (K D) for the agonist oxotremorine-M and and the K D/EC 50 ratio, an indicator of receptor-effector coupling efficiency were similar in young and aged rats. However, the maximal PI turnover response to oxotremorine-M was decreased in impaired aged rats and this parameter was highly correlated with the spatial learning index (R = −0.825; p < 0.001). A reduction in effector stimulation in the absence of changes in receptor protein or coupling efficiency suggests that dysfunction in the hippocampal muscarinic receptor systems occurs at the level of phospholipase C or beyond.