This article summarizes the proceedings of a symposium at the 2005 Research Society on Alcoholism Meeting in Santa Barbara, California, organized and cochaired by John J. Woodward and Dorit Ron. The purpose of the symposium was to discuss recent findings that extend our understanding of the importance of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor as a target for ethanol action in the brain. These receptors are ligand-gated ion channels that are activated by the neurotransmitter glutamate and are critically involved in many forms of synaptic plasticity including those associated with learning and memory. In the first presentation, Dorit Ron presented data showing how activation of Fyn or Src tyrosine kinases differentially regulated the cell surface expression and activity of NR2A and NR2B containing NMDA receptors. Danny Winder discussed the effects of ethanol on NMDA receptor-dependent long-term potentiation in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region associated with the interaction between stress and drug/alcohol use. In the third presentation, Marisa Roberto described adaptations in the expression and function of NMDA receptors in the central nucleus of the amygdala following chronic exposure to ethanol. Finally, John Woodward described the effects of ethanol on the activity of neurons in deep layers of the prefrontal cortex using a novel slice coculture preparation.