Neurochemical bases of locomotion and ethanol stimulant effects

Tamara J. Phillips, Elaine H. Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


The locomotor stimulant effect produced by alcohol (ethanol) is one of a large number of measurable ethanol effects. Ethanol-induced euphoria in humans and locomotor stimulation in rodents, a potential animal model of human euphoria, have long been recognized and the latter has been extensively characterized. Since the euphoria produced by ethanol may influence the development of uncontrolled or excessive alcohol use, a solid understanding of the neurochemical substrates underlying such effects is important. Such an understanding for spontaneous locomotion and for ethanol's stimulant effects is beginning to emerge. Herein \ve review what is known about three neurochemical substrates of locomotion and of ethanol's locomotor stimulant effects. Several lines of research have implicated dopaminergic, GABAergic, and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems in determining these behaviors. A large collection of work is cited, which strongly implicates the abovementioned neurotransmitter substances in the control of spontaneous locomotion. A smaller, but persuasive, body of evidence suggests that central nervous system processes utilizing these transmitters are involved in determining the effects of ethanol on locomotion. Particular emphasis has been placed on the mesolimbic ventral tegmental area to nucleus accumbens dopaminergic pathway, and on the ventral pallidum/substantia innominata, where GABA and glutamate have been found to play a role in altering the activity of this dopaminergic pathway. Research on ethanol and drug locomotor sensitization, increased responsiveness to the substance with repeated administration, is also reviewed as a process that may be important in the development of drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-282
Number of pages40
JournalInternational review of neurobiology
Issue number39
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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