Understanding the long-term consequences of chronic inflammation in the hippocampus may help to develop therapeutic targets for the treatment of cognitive disorders related to stress, ageing and neurodegeneration. The hippocampus is particularly vulnerable to increases in the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), a mediator of neuroinflammation, with elevated levels implicated in the aetiology of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and in stress-related disorders such as depression. Acute increases in hippocampal IL-1 beta have been shown to impair cognition and reduce adult hippocampal neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons. However, the impact of prolonged increases in IL-1 beta, as evident in clinical conditions, on cognition has not been fully explored. Therefore, the present study utilized a lentiviral approach to induce long-term overexpression of IL-1 beta in the dorsal hippocampus of adult male Sprague Dawley rats and examine its impact on cognition. Following three weeks of viral integration, pattern separation, a process involving hippocampal neurogenesis, was impaired in IL-1 beta-treated rats in both object-location and touchscreen operant paradigms. This was coupled with a decrease in the number and neurite complexity of immature neurons in the hippocampus. Conversely, tasks involving the hippocampus, but not sensitive to disruption of hippocampal neurogenesis, including spontaneous alternation, novel object and location recognition were unaffected. Touchscreen operant visual discrimination, a cognitive task involving the prefrontal cortex, was largely unaffected by IL-1 beta overexpression. In conclusion, these findings suggest that chronically elevated IL-1 beta in the hippocampus selectively impairs pattern separation. Inflammatory-mediated disruption of adult hippocampal neurogenesis may contribute to the cognitive decline associated with neurodegenerative and stress-related disorders.