84296 - Physiology of Gastrointestinal System, Nutrition and Metabolism

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Single cycle degree programme (LMCU) in Medicine and Surgery (cod. 9210)

Learning outcomes

Understand the importance of the integration of physiological processes from the molecular level to complex systems. Describe the general principles of gastrointestinal function, including motility, nervous control, and blood circulation. Describe the mechanisms of gastrointestinal secretion, digestion and absorption. Summarize the principles of metabolism and temperature regulation. Summarize the endocrine and nervous regulation of food intake and energy storage.

Course contents

Functional anatomy of gastrointestinal system
Structure of the gastrointestinal tract wall. Splanchnic circulation. Innervation of gastrointestinal system.

Neurohumoral regulation of the functions of the gastrointestinal system.

Nervous regulation of functions of gastrointestinal system: enteric nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation, reflex activity. Hormonal regulation of gastrointestinal functions.

Motility of gastrointestinal system
Chewing. Swallowing. Motility of esophagus. Gastric motility: filling of stomach, movements of mixing and emptying of gastric contents. Vomiting. Emptying of gallbladder. Motility of small intestine, of large intestine and of rectum. Defecation.

Secretion of gastrointestinal system
Salivary secretion: functions of saliva, secretion mechanisms and their regulation in physiological conditions. Gastric
secretion. Hydrochloric acid: its functions, secretion mechanism and its regulation in physiological conditions. Pepsinogen: its functions, secretion mechanism and its regulation in physiological conditions. Mucus secretion. Gastrin secretion. Pancreatic secretion: mechanisms of exocrine pancreatic secretion. Bicarbonate ions in pancreatic secretion; enzymes in pancreatic secretion. Regulation of pancreatic secretion in physiological conditions. Bile secretion: bile salts and thier rule in digestive process. Intestinal secretions.

Digestion and absorption
Digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. Digestion and absorption of proteins. Digestion and absorption of fats; role of bile salts in digestion and absorption of fats. Absorption of water and minerals: regulation of intestinal absorption of water and ions. Absorption of calcium and iron.

Regulation of food intake
Nervous centers controlling food intake. Factors controlling the amount of food. Short and long-term regulation.

Energy Metabolism
Basal metabolic rate. Energy metabolism and its regulation systems. Direct calorimetry. Indirect calorimetry. Factors that influence energy metabolism. Functions of thyroid hormones, of glucocorticoids, of pancreatic hormones.

Temperature regulation

Mechanisms of production and dispersion of heat in the body. Normal body temperature. Factors that alter body temperature. Body temperature regulation: mechanisms of thermogenesis and heat dispersion. Sweating and its regulation.


Guyton & Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology; 13rd ed.; Elsevier

Boron, Walter, Boulpaep, Emile: Medical Physiology, 3ed; Elsevier

You can find these books also in the Biblioteca Biomedica, via Filippo Re (Bologna).

All relevant teaching material will be available on the designated digital platforms (servers) of the University (IOL platform).



Teaching methods

Frontal lessons using Power Point presentations.

Attendance to learning activities is mandatory; the minimum attendance requirement to be admitted to the final exam is 60% of lessons. For Integrated Courses (IC), the 60% attendance requirement refers to the total amount of I.C. lessons. Students who fail to meet the minimum attendance requirement will not be admitted to the final exam of the course, and will have to attend relevant classes again during the next academic year.

Professors may authorise excused absences upon receipt of proper justifying documentation, in case of illness or serious reasons. Excused absences do not count against a student’s attendance record to determine their minimum attendance requirement.

Assessment methods


The exam of the integrated course consists of 3 oral and 1 written tests:

1 about Biochemistry (written)

1 about Semeiotics

1 about Anatomy

1 about Physiology.

Given the integrated nature of this course, students must take all the tests in the same period (usually the tests’ dates of the four parts are all within 10 days).

If the student passes only one or two tests, all the 4 tests must be repeated.

If a student passes only three tests out of the four, the unsuccessful test can be repeated under 2 conditions:

1) the mean mark of the other three tests is equal or higher than 24. If the mean is lower than 24, all the other three tests must be repeated.

2) the unsuccessful test must be repeated only in the next available exam date. If the student will not pass that test again, all the four tests must be repeated.


ONLY FOR PHYSIOLOGY:The final examination consists of an oral test in which the student will discuss mainly two different topics taken from the program. As part of the interview, questions will also be asked to evaluate the depth of the knowledge on the two topics and on other topics of the program, the critical thinking ability that links together different aspects of knowledge and the achievement of a comprehensive understanding of the topics addressed in class.

The exam will be considered passed if the student has demonstrated sufficient knowledge in each topic.

The student’s ability to move across the various topics of the Physiology program will be also evaluated. The student’s achievement of a comprehensive view of the topics addressed in class, together with their critical thought, the ability to make associations, the demonstration of rich and intelligible expression and use of specialist’s language will be evaluated with scores of excellence.

Teaching tools

Lectures will be done in a Power Point presentation format. The material for the slides (e.g. figures, photos) will come mainly from the suggested textbooks. All relevant teaching material will be available on the designated digital platforms (servers) of the University (IOL platform).

In order to prepare for the exam it is suggested to attend actively the lectures, study from a textbook and use both the notes taken during lectures and the IOL material.

Office hours

See the website of Rossella Breveglieri


Good health and well-being Quality education Gender equality

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.