Understanding how the brain perceives alcohol: Neurobiological basis of ethanol discrimination

Clyde W. Hodge, Kathleen A. Grant, Howard C. Becker, Joyce Besheer, Alicia M. Crissman, Donna M. Platt, Erin E. Shannon, Keith L. Shelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms that regulate how the brain perceives the intoxicating effects of alcohol is highly relevant to understanding the development and maintenance of alcohol addiction. The basis for the subjective effects of intoxication can be studied in drug discrimination procedures in which animals are trained to differentiate the presence of internal stimulus effects of a given dose of ethanol (EtOH) from its absence. Research on the discriminative stimulus effects of psychoactive drugs has shown that these effects are mediated by specific receptor systems. In the case of alcohol, action mediated through ionotropic glutamate, γ-aminobutyric acid, and serotonergic receptors concurrently produce complex, or multiple, basis for the discriminative stimulus effects of EtOH. These receptor systems may contribute differentially to the discriminative stimulus effects of EtOH based on the EtOH dose, species differences, physiological states, and genetic composition of the individual. An understanding of the receptor mechanisms that mediate the discriminative stimulus effects of EtOH can be used to develop medications aimed at decreasing the subjective effects associated with repeated intoxication. The goal of this symposium was to present an overview of recent findings that highlight the neurobiological mechanisms of EtOH's subjective effects and to suggest the relevance of these discoveries to both basic and clinical alcohol research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-213
Number of pages11
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • Alcohol
  • Discriminative Stimulus
  • GABA
  • Mice
  • NMDA
  • Neurosteroid
  • Primates
  • Rats
  • Tolerance
  • mGluR5

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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