Neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) is expressed throughout the immature and adult central nervous system and it has been demonstrated to influence the migration of a variety of cell types in developing brain. Elevated levels of NRG-1 transcript are found in the adult brain after injury, leading to the suggestion that NRG-1 is involved in the physiological response to neuronal injury. Here, we report our findings that rats pre-treated with NRG-1 protein, undergoing cerebral ischemia 30 min later, had increased motor performance and less cerebral infarction than untreated rats. In the cortex of NRG-1 treated rats, ischemia induced a decrease in caspase-3 immunoreactivity and a reduction in the density of cells positive for terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin in situ nick end-labeling. Improvement in behavioral assays was also found in animals treated with NRG-1. Pre-treatment with NRG-1 did not alter cerebral blood flow or other physiological parameters. NRG-1 reduced ischemia/reperfusion injury, indicating that it may act as an endogenous neuroprotective factor against stroke. Therefore, NRG-1 may represent a target for the development of new treatments for stroke.