The present study was designed to determine whether a low dose of acute ethanol administration could attenuate cognitive deficits associated with traumatic brain injury. Adult male rats received oral administration of ethanol or drinking water 2 h prior to surgery to produce a blood ethanol concentration of 100 mg% and then received bilateral contusion injuries of the medial prefrontal cortex. Seven days after surgery, the rats began 10 days of testing for acquisition of spatial localization in the Morris water maze where they were required to find a hidden platform to escape from the water. The results indicate that the rats given ethanol at the time of injury later spent significantly less time searching for the hidden platform than their water-treated counterparts. On a memory probe test given on the final day of testing, in which the platform was removed from the pool, rats given the ethanol spent more time in the area where the platform had been located indicating that they learned its location better than the lesion/water controls. In addition, acute ethanol treatment reduced some of the histopathology that typically occurs following severe contusion of the medial frontal cortex but did not attenuate post-traumatic formation of edema. These results indicate that acute ethanol intoxication can reduce the severity of cognitive impairments caused by contusive traumatic brain injury and support the contention that there is a dose-response relationship of acute ethanol intoxication in the setting of traumatic brain injury.