This paper reviews evidence that brain aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are somehow closely related and that the hippocampus (CA1) is highly vulnerable to cell loss under both conditions. In addition, two current lines of evidence on the mechanisms of hippocampal cell loss with aging are considered, including studies of neuronal calcium dysregulation and studies of cumulative glucocorticoid (GC) neurotoxicity. Moreover, recent electro-physiological studies have shown that excess glucocorticoid activation of hippocampal neurons increases the influx of calcium through voltage-activated calcium channels. Second messenger systems may mediate the steroid modulation of calcium channels. Therefore, it is hypothesized that excess glucocorticoid activation and neuronal calcium dysregulation may be two phases of a single process that increases the susceptibility of neurons to neurodegeneration during aging and Alzheimer's disease. © 1992 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.