Levels of thirst and ad libitum drinking decrease with advancing age, making older people vulnerable to dehydration. This study investigated age-related changes in brain responses to thirst and drinking in healthy men. Thirst was induced with hypertonic infusions (3.1 ml/kg 0.51M NaCl) in young (Y) and older (O) subjects. Regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured with positron emission tomography (PET). Thirst activations were identified by correlating rCBF with thirst ratings. Average rCBF was measured from regions of interest (ROI) corresponding to activation clusters in each group. The effects of drinking were examined by correlating volume of water drunk with changes in ROI rCBF from maximum thirst to postdrinking. There were increases in blood osmolality (Y, 2.8 +/- 1.8%; O, 2.2 +/- 1.4%) and thirst ratings (Y, 3.1 +/- 2.1; O, 3.7 +/- 2.8) from baseline to the end of the hypertonic infusion. Older subjects drank less water (1.9 +/- 1.6 ml/kg) than younger subjects (3.9 +/- 1.9 ml/kg). Thirst-related activation was evident in S1/M1, prefrontal cortex, anterior midcingulate cortex (aMCC), premotor cortex, and superior temporal gyrus in both groups. Postdrinking changes of rCBF in the aMCC correlated with drinking volumes in both groups. There was a greater reduction in aMCC rCBF relative to water drunk in the older group. Aging is associated with changes in satiation that militate against adequate hydration in response to hyperosmolarity, although it is unclear whether these alterations are due to changes in primary afferent inflow or higher cortical functioning.