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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.