Aging is the biggest risk factor for several neurodegenerative diseases. Parabiosis experiments have established that old mouse brains are improved by exposure to young mouse blood. Previously, our lab showed that delivery of Growth Differentiation Factor 11 (GDF11) to the bloodstream increases the number of neural stem cells and positively affects vasculature in the subventricular zone of old mice. Our new study demonstrates that GDF11 enhances hippocampal neurogenesis, improves vasculature and increases markers of neuronal activity and plasticity in the hippocampus and cortex of old mice. Our experiments also demonstrate that systemically delivered GDF11, rather than crossing the blood brain barrier, exerts at least some of its effects by acting on brain endothelial cells. Thus, by targeting the cerebral vasculature, GDF11 has a very different mechanism from that of previously studied circulating factors acting to improve central nervous system (CNS) function without entering the CNS.