In Mongolian gerbils, bilateral common carotid artery occlusion (BCCAO) for several minutes induces ischemia, due to an incomplete circle of Willis, resulting in delayed neuronal cell death in the Cornet d’Ammon 1 (CA1) region of the hippocampus. Neuronal cell death in the hippocampus and changes in behavior were examined after BCCAO was performed for 5 min in the gerbils. One day after BCCAO, the pyramidal neurons of the CA1 region of the hippocampus showed degenerative changes (clumped chromatin in nuclei). At 5 and 10 days after BCCAO, extensive neuronal cell death was observed in the hippocampal CA1 region. Cognitive performance was evaluated by using the radial maze and passive avoidance tests. In the radial maze test, which examines win-stay performance, the number of errors was significantly higher in ischemic gerbils than in sham-operated gerbils on days 1 and 2 post-operation. In the passive avoidance test, the latency and freezing times were significantly shorter in ischemic gerbils than in sham-operated gerbils on the days 1, 2, and 4–6 post-operation. These results indicate that ransient forebrain ischemia impairs cognitive performance, even immediately after the ischemic insult when there are only subtle signs of neuronal cell death.