Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an angiogenesis factor with neurotrophic, neuroprotective and neuroproliferative effects. Depending on the dose, route and time of administration in relation to focal cerebral ischemia, VEGF can improve histological outcome and sensorimotor function in rodents. However, VEGF also increases vascular permeability, which can lead to brain edema and exacerbate ischemic brain injury. Thus, although VEGF is a candidate therapeutic for stroke and other ischemic disorders, its benefit relative to risk is uncertain. Considering that functional rather than histological measures of outcome are probably most relevant to therapeutic prospects for human stroke, we investigated the effects of VEGF after middle cerebral artery occlusion in rats using a series of behavioral tests. We report that VEGF improves functional outcome in ischemic rats, including both sensorimotor and cognitive deficiencies.