We examined the performance of Long-Evans rats with 192 IgG-saporin lesions of the medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band (MS/VDB) or nucleus basalis magnocellularis/substantia innominata (NBM/SI), which removed cholinergic projections mainly to hippocampus or neocortex, respectively. We studied the effects of these lesions on anterograde and retrograde memory for a natural form of hippocampal-dependent associative memory, the social transmission of food preference. In a study of anterograde memory, MS/VDB lesions did not affect the immediate, 24-h or 3-week retention of the task. In contrast, NBM/SI lesions severely impaired immediate and 24-h retention. In a study of retrograde memory in which rats acquired the food preference 5 days or 1 day before surgery and they were tested 10–11 days after surgery, MS/VDB-lesioned rats showed striking memory deficits for the preference acquired at a long delay (5 days) before surgery, although all lesioned rats exhibited poorer retention on both retest sessions than on their pretest performance. Subsequent testing of new anterograde learning in these rats revealed no disrupting effects of lesions on a standard two-choice test. When rats were administered a three-choice test, in which the target food was presented along with two more options, NBM/SI-lesioned rats were somewhat impaired on a 24-h retention test. These results provide evidence that NBM/SI and MS/VDB cholinergic neurons are differentially involved in a social memory task that uses olfactory cues, suggesting a role for these neurons in acquisition and consolidation/retrieval of nonspatial declarative memory.