Controversy exists as to whether lifelong 40% calorie restriction (CR) enhances, has no effect on, or disrupts cognitive function during aging. Here, we report the effects of CR versus ad-lib feeding on cognitive function in male Brown Norway × Fisher344 rats across a range of ages (8-38 months), using two tasks that are differentially sensitive to age-related cognitive decline: object recognition and Morris water maze (MWM). All ages performed equally in object recognition, whereas, as a group, CR rats were impaired. In contrast, there was an age-related impairment in the MWM that was attenuated by CR as measured by time in proximity with and latency to reach the platform. Distance to the platform, a more sensitive measure, was not affected by CR. Finally, CR resulted in an overall increase in physical activity, one of several behavioral confounders to consider in the interpretation of cognitive outcomes in both tasks. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved.