Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are used in the medical treatment of many disorders. Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hematopoietic cytokine that has anti-apoptotic, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory effects. The aim of the present study is to investigate the neuroprotective effects of EPO in the hippocampus, parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex, in brain damage due to nandrolone decanoate. 35 Wistar male rats were randomly divided into: (1) control group, (2) sham group, (3) nandrolone decanoate group (ND, intramuscular, 10 mg/(kg week), 8 weeks), (4) ND + low dose EPO treated group (ND + L-EPO) and (5) ND + high dose EPO treated group (ND + H-EPO). EPO was administrated by intraperitoneal injection at a dose of 100 U/(kg day) for L-EPO treatment and at a dose of 500 U/(kg day) for H-EPO treatment during 8 weeks. The number of neurons of CA1, CA2, CA3 and dentate gyrus of hippocampus, parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex were significantly less in the ND group compared with the control group. Treatment with H-EPO significantly preserved the number of neurons in hippocampus when compared with ND administrated. Besides, H-EPO treatment decreased the number of TUNEL-positive and active caspase-3 positive cells and MDA levels and increased GPx levels when compared to ND group. In conclusion, abuse of AAS causes reduction in the number of neurons in hippocampus, parietal cortex and prefrontal cortex regions and increases oxidative damage and therefore H-EPO may be useful as a neuroprotective agent in brain injury. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.