05181 - Physiology

Course Unit Page


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

Zero hunger Good health and well-being Gender equality Clean water and sanitation

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

After the course, the student:

- will have a good knowledge of the neurophysiologicl bases of behaviour and of the sensory, cognitive and emotional interactions between the person and the environment

- will know the functional mechanisms of organs and apparatuses

- will be able to integrate this knowledge to understand the neuroendocrine control mechanisms of vegetative functions.

Course contents

Cellular Physiology

Membrane diffusion and transport

Types of movement across membrane. Passive transport. Active transport.Voltage-dependent channels and channels dependent by chemical substances. Chemical modulation of voltage-dependent channels.

Electrical events of membrane
Membrane potential: physical and chemical bases of membrane potential and resting ionic flow. Action-potential: its origin. Threshold. Absolute and relative refractory period. Action-potential propagation in myelinated and unmyelinated axons.

Chemical Synapses: functional anatomy. Presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms of chemical transmission. Graduated potentials: excitatory and inhibitory potentials. Classic neurotransmitters and neuropeptides: syntesis, release, inactivation, interaction with their receptors.

Skeletal muscle
Structure of skeletal-muscle cell. Molecular mechanism of the contraction. Excitation-contraction coupling. Control of skeletal muscle. Neuromuscular synaptic transmission. Organization of muscle system.

Smooth muscle
Classification of smooth muscles. Structure of smooth-muscle cell. Mechanism of the contraction. Control of the contraction of smooth muscle: chemical and hormonal modulation of muscolar contraction.

General Physiology

Functional organization of the Nervous system

Anatomic and functional organization of the central and peripheral nervous system. Neural circuits; Reflex arc.Glial cells. Blood-brain barrier. Maps of cerebral cortex.

Sensory systems

General principles of sensory physiology. Functional organization of sensory systems. Structure and function of sensory receptors. Receptor encoding of sensory stimuli.

Visual system

Eye structure. Vitreous body, acqueous humor and vascular structures of the eye. Optical properties of the eye. Accommodation reflex. Pupilary reflex. Alterations of the eye. Photoreceptors and retina. Ocular movements. Central Visual pathways.

Motor control

Hierarchical organizations of the motor system. Reflex movements. Higher control of reflexes. Voluntary movement.

Autonomic nervous system

Anatomo-functional organization of autonomic nervous system. Sympathetic and parasympathetic section. Chemical pre and postganglionic transmitters. Cholinergic-nicotinic and muscarinic receptors. Adrenergic alfa and beta receptors. Effects of sympathetic and parasympathetic stimulation on different organs and systems. Autonomic Reflexes. Enteric nervous system. Central control of autonomic nervous system and interactions with neuroendocrine system.

Hormonal and Reproductive systems

Homonal control mechanisms

General basis of hormonal physiology. Classification of hormones and mechanisms of hormonal action. Mechanisms of control of hormonal secretion.

Hypothalamus-Hypophysis Axes

Role of hypothalamus and pituitary on the control of hormone secretion. Physiological functions of different hormones.

Funtions of main hormones

Functions of tyroid hormones, surrenal hormones and pancreatic hormones

Male Reproductive functions
Male reproductive functions. Hormonal control of male reproductive functions.

Female reproductive functions 1

Hormonal control of menstrual cycle and endometrial changes.

Female reproductive functions 2

Fertilization, pregnancy, delivery and lactation.

Cardiovascular system

Organization of cardiovascular system

Overall design of cardiovascular system. Characteristics of the great and small circulation. Functional anatomy of heart; structure of myocardium.

Mechanical activity of heart

Mechanical events of cardiac cycle. Blood pressure and volume changing in atria and ventricules. Pressure in aortic artery.

Electrical activity of heart
Electrical characteristics of cardiac cells. Genesis of cardiac cycle. Electrical conduction system of the heart. Refractory period of the heart. Control of excitation and condution in the heart.

Control of cardiac output
Cardiac output: normal values and range of variation. Mechanisms of regulation of cardiac output: control of heart rate and stroke volume.

Vascular network
Characteristics and functions of vascular network: arteries, arterioles, capillaries, veins, lymphatic vessels. Diffusion across the capillary wall. Regulation of local hematic flow.

Regulation of systemic arterial pressure
Values of arterial pressure. Systems of regulation of arterial pressure: short, medium and long-term control.

Respiratory systems

Pulmonary ventilation

Functional anatomy of respiratory systems; characteristics and functions of cunducting zone and of alveolar wall. Mechanics of the pulmonary ventilation. Alveolar and intrapleural pressure changes during the respiratory cycle. Ventilation and alveolar perfusion.

Exchanges of gases in lungs and tissues

Composition of atmospheric air and alveolar air. Differences in pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide in lungs and tissues. Factors involved in gas exchange in lungs and tissues.

Transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood. Oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve and its functional implications.

Control mechanisms of respiratory activity
Genesis of rythmical breathing. Brainstem-encephalic structures involved in control of breathing. Nervous modulation of rythmical breathing: upper centers and afferentsignals. Chemical modulation of rythmical breathing: central and peripheral chemoreceptors, control of breathing by carbon dioxide, pH and oxygen.

Renal system

Basic renal process

Functional anatomy of kidney. Functions of renal network. Process involved in urine production. Glomerular filtration: glomerular filtration barrier, velocity of filtration, physiological control of glomerular filtration. Tubular reabsorptions and secretions.

Balance of sodium and water and regulation of diuresis
Mechanism of regulation of diuresis. Mechanism of urine concentration: the countercurrent multiplier system. Renal water regulation. Regulation of sodium reabsorption.

Regulation of acid-base balance
Biological buffer systems. Respiratory and renal homeostatic response to variations of acid-base changes.

Gastrointestinal system

Functional organization of gastrointestinal system

Structure of the gastrointestinal tract wall. Innervation of gastrointestinal
system. Anatomo-functional features of smooth muscle of 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 gall bladder. Motility of small intestine. Motility of large intestine and of rectum. Defecation.

Secretion of gastrointestinal system
Basic mechanisms of stimulation
of glands of gastrointestinal system. Functions, compositin and regulation of secretion of : Salivary secretion. Gastric
secretion. Pancreatic secretion. Bile secretion. Intestinal secretions.

Digestion and absorption
General mechanisms of 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-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.

Regulation of food and water intake
Nervous centers controlling food intake.
Factors controlling the amount of food. Short and long-term regulation. Neurotrasmitters
and regulation of food intake.
Mechanism of thirst; kidney regulation.


Requested textbook:

FISIOLOGIA dalle molecole ai sistemi integrati. Carbone, Aicardi & Maggi, II ed. EdiSES 2018.

Suggested textbooks:

VANDER FISIOLOGIA- Widmaier et al., 2018, casa ed. Ambrosiana.

FISIOLOGIA - Stanfield, IV ediz, Edises, 2012


Fisiologia – un approccio integrato. Silverthorn. Pearson Education Italia - 2010.

Fisiologia medica. Guyton & Hall, Elsevier-Masson Ed., XI edizione italiana, 2006.

Berne-Levi-Fisiologia casa editrice ambrosiana, 6 edizione italiana, 2010


Teaching methods

Frontal lessons using Power Point presentations.

Interactive methods (e.g. Kahoot, Quizizz, etc…) learned in recent didactic laboratories of UNIBO will also be added, so to have a richer interaction among students and between students and professor.

Assessment methods

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

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 material put by the tutor on the server of the University.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Patrizia Fattori

See the website of Rossella Breveglieri