Journal of Undergraduate Research


drunken membranes, short-chain alcohols, fusion of liposomes, planar lipid bilayers


Life Sciences


Physiology and Developmental Biology


The focus of my project was on understanding the effect of alcohol on the complex process of neural transmission, or how the body sends and receives signals through neurons. This essential communication occurs at junctions where neurons meet known as synapses. Essential to the process of sending any signal is the releasing of neurotransmitters into the synapse where they bind to receptors on the adjacent neuron. This releasing of neurotransmitter occurs through a process known as exocytosis. Exocytosis can only occur when neurotransmitter-containing vesicles fuse to the cell membrane. Alterations to the process of exocytosis can result in drastic consequences, such as the deadly paralysis seen in botulism. Initial experimentation with ethanol in our model system yielded dramatic consequences in inhibiting the fusion of vesicles and lead us to do more careful experimentation. The goal of this project was to carefully characterize this effect and submit it for publication in a scientific journal.

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