It is well known that traumatic brain injury (TBI) induces the cognitive dysfunction resulting from hippocampal damage. In the present study, we aimed to assess whether the circulating IGF-I levels are associated with cognition and hippocampal damage in 7-day-old rat pups subjected to contusion injury. Hippocampal damage was examined by cresyl violet staining and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay. Spatial memory performance was assessed in the Morris water maze. Serum IGF-1 levels decreased in both early and late period of TBI. Decreased levels of serum IGF-1 were correlated with hippocampal neuron loss and spatial memory deficits. Circulating IGF-1 levels may be predictive of cognitive dysfunction resulted from hippocampal damage following traumatic injury in developing brain. Therapy strategies that increase circulating IGF-1 may be highly promising for preventing the unfavorable outcomes of traumatic damage in young children. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.