Passive avoidance learning was studied in young rats 7-20 days old, in control conditions and after bilateral injections of physostigmine into the lateral amygdaloid nucleus. Acquisition in controls was possible from postnatal Day 8 on, progressed markedly after Day 11, and nearly reached maturity by Day 20. Physostigmine differentially altered acquisition depending on the dose: facilitation with low doses, no effect with moderate doses, and impairment with high doses. Enhanced learning through small doses of physostigmine was observed at all ages from Day 8 on, and was greater with 0.2 μg than with 0.1 μg. Maturation of the cholinergic innervation of the amygdaloid region was also studied between Days 9-20 using acetylcholine-esterase histochemistry. The results suggest that passive avoidance learning is dependent on amygdaloid cholinergic mechanisms early in life. In addition, very immature cholonergic systems, which are known to be uninfluenced by anticholinesterases.