Cholinergic, GABAergic and glutamatergic projection neurons of the basal forebrain (BF) innervate widespread regions of the neocortex and are thought to modulate learning and attentional processes. Although it is known that neuronal cell types in the BF exhibit oscillatory firing patterns, whether the BF as a whole shows oscillatory field potential activity, and whether such neuronal patterns relate to components of cognitive tasks, has yet to be determined. To this end, local field potentials (LFPs) were recorded from the BF of rats performing an associative learning task wherein neutral objects were paired with differently valued reinforcers (pellets). Over time, rats developed preferences for the different objects based on pellet-value, indicating that the pairings had been well learned. LFPs from all rats revealed robust, short-lived bursts of beta-frequency oscillations (∼25 Hz) around the time of object encounter. Beta-frequency LFP events were found to be learning-dependent, with beta-frequency peak amplitudes significantly greater on the first day of the task when object–reinforcement pairings were novel than on the last day when pairings were well learned. The findings indicate that oscillatory bursting field potential activity occurs in the BF in freely behaving animals. Furthermore, the temporal distribution of these bursts suggests that they are probably relevant to associative learning.