Near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) imaging enables non-invasive monitoring of molecular and cellular processes in live animals. Here we demonstrate the suitability of NIRF imaging to investigate the neutrophil response in the brain after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO). We established procedures for ex vivo fluorescent labelling of neutrophils without affecting their activation status. Adoptive transfer of labelled neutrophils in C57BL/6 mice before surgery resulted in higher fluorescence intensities over the ischaemic hemisphere in tMCAO mice with NIRF imaging when compared with controls, corroborated by ex vivo detection of labelled neutrophils using fluorescence microscopy. NIRF imaging showed that neutrophils started to accumulate immediately after tMCAO, peaking at 18 h, and were still visible until 48 h after reperfusion. Our data revealed accumulation of neutrophils also in extracranial tissue, indicating damage in the external carotid artery territory in the tMCAO model. Antibody-mediated inhibition of α4-integrins did reduce fluorescence signals at 18 and 24, but not at 48 h after reperfusion, compared with control treatment animals. Antibody treatment reduced cerebral lesion volumes by 19%. In conclusion, the non-invasive nature of NIRF imaging allows studying the dynamics of neutrophil recruitment and its modulation by targeted interventions in the mouse brain after transient experimental cerebral ischaemia.