After traumatic damage of the brain or spinal cord, many surviving neurons are disconnected, and recovery of function is limited by poor axon regeneration. Recent data have suggested that poly ADP-ribosylation plays a role in limiting axonal regrowth such that inhibition of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) may have therapeutic efficacy for neurological recovery after trauma. Here, we tested systemic administration of the PARP inhibitor, veliparib, and showed effective suppression of PARylation in the mouse CNS. After optic nerve crush injury or dorsal hemisection of the thoracic spinal cord in mice, treatment with veliparib at doses with pharmacodynamic action had no benefit for axonal regeneration or functional recovery. We considered whether PARP gene family specificity might play a role. In vitro mouse cerebral cortex axon regeneration experiments revealed that short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated suppression of PARP1 promoted axonal regeneration, whereas suppression of other PARP isoforms either had no effect or decreased regeneration. Therefore, we examined recovery from neurological trauma in mice lacking PARP1. No increase of axonal regeneration was observed in Parp1-/- mice after optic nerve crush injury or dorsal hemisection of the thoracic spinal cord, and there was no improvement in motor function recovery. Thus, comprehensive in vivo analysis reveals no indication that clinical PARP inhibitors will on their own provide benefit for recovery from CNS trauma.