Nitric oxide (NO) is involved in neuronal modifications, and overproduction of NO contributes to memory deficits after acute hypobaric hypoxia-reoxygenation. This study investigated the ability of the iNOS inhibitor 1400 W to counteract spatial memory deficits following acute hypobaric hypoxia-reoxygenation, and to affect expression of NOS, NO, 3-NT and MDA production, and apoptosis in rat cerebral cortex. We also used primary rat microglia to investigate the effect of 1400 W on expression of NOS, NO, 3-NT and MDA production, and apoptosis. Acute hypobaric hypoxia-reoxygenation impaired spatial memory, and was accompanied by activated microglia, increased iNOS expression, NO, 3-NT and MDA production, and neuronal cell apoptosis in rat cerebral cortex one day post-reoxygenation. 1400 W treatment inhibited iNOS expression without affecting nNOS or eNOS. 1400 W also reduced NO, 3-NT and MDA production, and prevented neuronal cell apoptosis in cerebral cortex, in addition to reversing spatial memory impairment after acute hypobaric hypoxia-reoxygenation. Hypoxia-reoxygenation activated primary microglia, and increased iNOS and nNOS expression, NO, 3-NT, and MDA production, and apoptosis. Treatment with 1400 W inhibited iNOS expression without affecting nNOS, reduced NO, 3-NT and MDA production, and prevented apoptosis in primary microglia. Based on the above findings, we concluded that the highly selective iNOS inhibitor 1400 W inhibited iNOS induction in microglial cells, and reduced generation of NO, thereby mitigating oxidative stress and neuronal cell apoptosis in the rat cerebral cortex, and improving the spatial memory dysfunction caused by acute hypobaric hypoxia-reoxygenation.