We studied at the biochemical, morphological, and behavioral levels the effect of chronic ethanol consumption, associated or not with a mild thiamine deficiency episode. We found that (i) thiamine deficiency induced a significant decrease of the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity both in cortex and hippocampus; (ii) chronic ethanol treatment has no effect on cortical AChE activity, but induced a significant decrease of hippocampal enzyme activity; (iii) the reduction in cortical and hippocampal AChE activity induced by chronic ethanol treatment associated with a 1-week thiamine deficiency was also significant and was greater than that induced by ethanol alone. Furthermore, either chronic ethanol or thiamine deficiency induced a significant decrease in the release of acetylcholine (ACh) in the stimulated condition using high potassium concentration; and when both treatments were associated the decrease was even greater. In the unstimulated condition, the reduction in the release of ACh was greater for ethanol treatment than for thiamine deficiency. Open-field tests showed that only in the "sniffing" category were there significant differences among the experimental groups. No morphological change was detected by optical microscopy, suggesting that the injury process was in its initial stages in which only functional and behavioral changes are displayed. In addition, our biochemical results indicate that cortical cholinergic susceptibilities to ethanol and thiamine deficiency are significantly different.