One of the major pathological characteristics of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the presence of enhanced deposits of beta-amyloid peptide (Aβ). The neuropeptide galanin (GAL) and its receptors are overexpressed in degenerating brain regions in AD. The functional consequences of galaninergic systems plasticity in AD are unclear. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether exogenous galanin could attenuate spatial memory impairment and hippocampal Aβ aggregation in rat model of AD. The effects of Aβ, galanin, galanin receptor 1 agonist M617 and galanin receptor 2 agonist AR-M1896 on spatial memory were tested by Morris water maze. The effects of Aβ, galanin, M617 and AR-M1896 on hippocampal Aβ protein expression were evaluated by western blot assay. The expression of galanin, galanin receptors 1 and 2 in rats' hippocampus were detected by real time PCR and western blot assay. The results showed that (1) Galanin administration was effective in improving the spatial memory and decreasing hippocampal Aβ levels after intracerebroventricular injection of Aβ; (2) AR-M1896 rather than M617 could imitate these effects of galanin; (3) GAL and GALR2 mRNA and protein levels increased significantly in hippocampus after Aβ administration, while GALR1 mRNA and protein levels did not change; (4) GAL, AR-M1896 and M617 administration did not show significant effect on GAL, GalR1 and GalR2 mRNA and protein levels in hippocampus after Aβ administration. These results implied that galanin receptor 2, but not receptor 1 was involved in the protective effects against spatial memory impairment and hippocampal Aβ aggregation.