Acute exposure to ethanol at 22 and 44 mM concentrations altered several features of the current-evoked voltage responses of cerebellar Purkinje neurons and hippocampal neurons studied in culture model systems. Whole cell current clamp techniques were used. At 22 mM, ethanol depressed current-evoked spiking in the hippocampal neurons but enhanced the current-evoked spiking in the Purkinje neurons. In both neuronal types, 44 mM ethanol depressed spiking, the amplitude of the afterhyperpolarization generated at the termination of a current pulse and the amplitude of the off-response generated at the termination of a hyperpolarizing pulse. Ethanol had little or no effect on resting membrane potential or the passive membrane properties measured near resting level in either neuronal type. Some changes in the current-voltage curves were observed at more depolarized or hyperpolarized potentials in both neuronal types. In the Purkinje neurons, where spontaneous activity was a prominent feature of some recordings, exposure to ethanol reduced the frequency of the spontaneous events. These results indicate that acute exposure to ethanol at intoxicating doses alters the membrane excitability of these two CNS neuronal types. The ethanol induced changes in neuronal excitability presumably contribute to the changes in firing properties observed in extracellular recordings from these neuronal types in vivo and the behavioral effects observed during alcohol intoxication in animal models.