Adenosine is a modulator that has a pervasive and generally inhibitory effect on neuronal activity. Tonic activation of adenosine receptors by adenosine that is normally present in the extracellular space in brain tissue leads to inhibitory effects that appear to be mediated by both adenosine A1 and A2A receptors. Relief from this tonic inhibition by receptor antagonists such as caffeine accounts for the excitatory actions of these agents. Characterization of the effects of adenosine receptor agonists and antagonists has led to numerous hypotheses concerning the role of this nucleoside. Previous work has established a role for adenosine in a diverse array of neural phenomena, which include regulation of sleep and the level of arousal, neuroprotection, regulation of seizure susceptibility, locomotor effects, analgesia, mediation of the effects of ethanol, and chronic drug use.