Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is a neurotrophic factor that promotes neuronal growth, differentiation and survival. Neuroprotective effects of IGF-I have previously been shown in adult and juvenile rat models of brain injury. We wanted to investigate the neuroprotective effect of IGF-I after hypoxia-ischemia (HI) in 7-day-old neonatal rats and the mechanisms of IGF-I actions in vivo. We also wanted to study effects of HI and/or IGF-I on the serine/threonine kinases Akt and glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) in the phophatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) pathway. Immediately after HI, phosphorylated Akt (pAkt) and phosphorylated GSK3β (pGSK3β) immunoreactivity was lost in the ipsilateral and reduced in the contralateral hemisphere. After 45 min, pAkt levels were restored to control values, whereas pGSK3β remained low 4 h after HI. Administration of IGF-I (50 µg i.c.v.) after HI resulted in a 40% reduction in brain damage (loss of microtubule-associated protein) compared with vehicle-treated animals. IGF-I treatment without HI was shown to increase pAkt whereas pGSK3β decreased in the cytosol, but increased in the nuclear fraction. IGF-I treatment after HI increased pAkt in the cytosol and pGSK3β in both the cytosol and the nuclear fraction in the ipsilateral hemisphere compared with vehicle-treated rats, concomitant with a reduced caspase-3- and caspase-9-like activity. In conclusion, IGF-I induces activation of Akt during recovery after HI which, in combination with inactivation of GSK3β, may explain the attenuated activation of caspases and reduction of injury in the immature brain.