The deleterious effects of ethanol on cognitive processes result from an interaction between ethanol and the neural structures that are critical for executing those cognitive functions. Results from studies that employ contemporary behavioral neuroscience techniques are beginning to elucidate the neural circuits that underlie specific cognitive processes, and the stage is set for rigorous investigations into the neural basis for ethanol-induced cognitive impairments. In this article, the application of single neuron recording techniques to the study of the memory and attentional deficits produced by acute exposure to low levels of ethanol are described, with an emphasis on the advantages of combining physiological techniques with operant behavioral procedures in rats. After reviewing background information on the basic neurophysiological and behavioral techniques, empirical results from this laboratory will be used to illustrate how single-unit analysis can be applied to the study of ethanol-induced cognitive impairments.