Ethanol's effects on heart rate variability may contribute to the increased cardiac disease and mortality observed in alcoholics. We assessed cardiac response to ethanol in seven previously ethanol-naive monkeys given a standard dose of ethanol, or saline. Ethanol exposure reduced cardiac signal complexity [mean+/-S.D. (ethanol: Hurst parameter=0.39+/-0.02; saline: Hurst parameter=0.32+/-0.06)] and increased the spectral exponent (ethanol: beta=1.36+/-0.35; saline: beta=1.12+/-0.35) when compared to saline, while heart rate itself was unaffected (saline: interbeat interval=303.57+/-24.57; ethanol: interbeat interval=308.14+/-20.45). Taken together with data that show autonomic disregulation in alcoholics, these findings provide further evidence of deleterious ethanol effects on cardiac signal dynamics.