For well over a century, ethanol was believed to exert its effects on cognition and behavior by producing a ubiquitous depression of central nervous system activity. A general disruption in brain function was consistent with the belief that ethanol's effects on cognition and behavior were also quite general. Substantial evidence now indicates that ethanol produces a host of selective effects on neural activity, resulting in regional differences in ethanol's effects in the brain. Consistent with such evidence, recent research suggests that ethanol's effects on cognition and behavior are not as global as previously assumed. The present paper discusses evidence that many of ethanol's effects on learning and memory stem from altered cellular activity in the hippocampus and related structures. Potential mechanisms for ethanol's disruption of hippocampal function are reviewed. Evidence suggests that ethanol disrupts activity in the hippocampus by interacting directly with hippocampal neurons and by interacting with critical hippocampal afferents.