Low doses of ethanol activate dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area

Brain Res. 1985 Nov 25;348(1):201-3. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(85)90381-6.


In unanesthetized rats the intravenous administration of low doses of ethanol (0.125-0.5 g/kg) produced a dose-dependent increase (30-80%) in the firing rate of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). In agreement with previous observations, a dose range between 0.5 and 2 g/mg of ethanol was needed to produce comparable stimulant responses in DA neurons of the Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta. However, in anesthetized rats, doses of ethanol up to 1 g/kg failed to activate VTA-DA neurons. The high sensitivity of VTA-DA neurons to ethanol activation suggests that they might be involved in the reinforcing properties of the drug.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Dopamine / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / drug effects*


  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Ethanol
  • Dopamine