A quantitative histochemical method was developed to determine aldehyde dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52; ALDH) activity in the CNS. The distribution of ALDH activity in all rat brain and spinal cord regions is described. Among the CNS neuron structures, high enzyme activity was found in receptor and effector neurons, whereas low activity was noted in perikarya of the majority of intermediate neurons, including all aminergic neurons. A positive correlation was demonstrated between the distribution of ALDH activity among rat CNS microregions (our own data) and the density of dopaminergic terminals, dopamine content, and monoamine oxidase activity (literature data) among the same microregions. They may reflect a spatial linkage between ALDH and the predicted sites of natural aldehyde production. Lower enzyme activity was found in phylogenetically younger brain structures. It may explain the differential resistance of CNS structures to ethanol (acetaldehyde). Among the barrier CNS structures, moderate ALDH activity was found in capillaries and surrounding astrocytes and high activity was noted in ependimocytes covering the brain cavities and those of the vascular plexus. This provides realization of the function of ALDH as a brain metabolic barrier for aldehydes.