The adrenal stress response was examined in young and mature rats of both sexes by measuring the increase in adrenal tyrosine hydroxylase activity and serum corticosterone following exposure to electric footshock. Exposure to electric footshock for six minutes on three consecutive days elevated tyrosine hydroxylase activity in young and mature female rats and in young male rats, but failed to elevate enzyme activity in mature male animals. This decreased responsiveness of tyrosine hydroxylase in mature male rats could be overcome by giving prior experience with electric footshock. Age, sex, and prior experience interacted a affecting the levels of serum corticosterone in response to a three minute exposure to electric footshock. However, the most dramatic effect was due to prior experience, which reduced themagnitude and altered the time of the peak serum corticosterone response. These data demonstrated that the pituitary-adrenal system can be modified in old animals in a manner similar to the modification seen following infant stimulation, and indicate that several mechanisms may be invilved in the maturation and aging of a species.