Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Amyloid-beta protein is considered as a key factor of pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. l-3-n-butylphthalide (L-NBP), an anti-cerebral ischemia drug, has been shown to have therapeutic effects in vascular dementia animal models. In the present study, we investigated the potential of L-NBP to protect against cognitive impairment, oxidative damage and neuropathological changes induced by intracerebroventricular infusion of amyloid-beta peptide in rats. Daily treatments of 10 and 30 mg/kg L-NBP significantly improved spatial learning deficits and attenuated working memory deficits in Morris water maze task. L-NBP partially reversed the reduction of glutathione peroxidase activities and decreased malondialdehyde levels in the cortex and hippocampus. Furthermore, L-NBP markedly inhibited amyloid-beta-induced neuronal apoptosis, possibly by blocking caspase-3 activation. In addition, L-NBP reduced activation of glycogen synthase kinase-3beta and tau protein phosphorylation. Our results demonstrate that L-NBP protects against amyloid-beta-induced neurodegeneration and cognitive decline in a rat model, suggesting that it may have potential as a therapy for Alzheimer's disease.