76149 - Physiology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

Describe the basic mechanisms of transport of substances across cell membranes. Discuss the role of ions in information processing, with particular reference to the resting membrane potential and action potential. Discuss the principles and modalities of synaptic transmission. Describe the process of signal transduction and transmission in sensory receptors. Describe the basic principles of body fluid distribution and dynamics. Discuss how disruptions in physiological pathways may lead to disease, and illustrate with specific examples.

Course contents

Transcellular and paracellular transports

Water compartments of the body, ionic composition of extracellular and intracellular fluids. Selective permeability of the membrane. Water and solutes transport across the membrane. Passive transport: diffusion and Fick’s law.

Osmosis. Facilitated diffusion (uniports). Primary active transport: pumps. Secondary active transports: synports; antiports.

Water and solutes transport across epithelia. Filtration and fluid exchange at capillary level according to the Starling-Landis hypothesis.

The membrane potential and the action potential

The electrochemical balance. The Nernst equation. The membrane potential. The Goldman equation.

The action potential. The threshold. The regenerative mechanism. Changes in ion conductance during the action potential

The excitation of membranes and the voltage-gated channels in neurons, smooth muscle, and myocardiocytes

The Hodgkin cycle. The refractory period. Propagation of the action potential.

Synaptic transmission

Electric synapses. Chemical synapses. Synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Classification of neurotransmitters. Receptors.

Ionotropic and metabotropic receptors. ESPS and IPSP. Spatial and temporal summation. Presynaptic inhibition. The Neuromuscular junction.

Sensory receptors

Classification of sensory receptors. The adequate stimulus. The threshold. The signal transduction. The receptor potential. Propagation of the signal along the neural pathway.

Coding of the intensity of the stimulus. Adaptation. Receptive fields.

General sensibility

Receptors and fibers involved in the sense of touch, in kinestesis, in thermal sensation and in pain

Vision and special senses

Cellular organization of the retina. Phototransduction. Photopic and scotopic vision.

Functional and anatomical organization of the cochlea and of the vestibular system. Acoustic thresholds. The transduction of sounds. Tonotopia. Vestibular receptor response to acceleration.

CO2 and O2 transport in the blood.

Transport of O2 in the blood. The dissociation curve of hemoglobin. Quantitative aspects of oxygen transports. Hypoxia.

Transport of CO2 in the blood. Functional meaning of the CO2 curves. Interaction between O2 and CO2 transports.

Ca2+ metabolism

Ca2+ metabolism. The Parathyroid hormone. Vitamin D. Calcitonin. The bone.


Berne & Levy Physiology - 7th Edition - Elsevier

Medical Physiology - 3rd Edition - Elsevier

Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition

Cell Physiology Source Book - Fourth Edition

The Central Nervous System - Per Brodal - Oxford University Press

Teaching methods


Attendance to learning activities is mandatory; the minimum attendance requirement to be admitted to the final exam is 66% of lessons. For Integrated Courses (IC), the 66% 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

Students who regularly attended the course of Cell Signaling will be evaluated through a four-hour FINAL EXAM, a cumulative written test with both multiple-choice and open-ended response formats that include topics from all the teaching modules of the integrated course of Signaling Pathways in Health and Disease: Cell Signaling, Metabolic Biochemistry and Physiology (module_1 and module_2). Final Grade Fractions: Cell Signaling, 9/32 pts; Metabolic Biochemistry 14/32 pts; Physiology, 9/32 pts. MAX GRADE: 30 cum laude.

Candidates who are awarded a provisional mark >=28 in the written test may benefit from a discretionary oral examination in the closest call (see AlmaEsami for details) and will be further examined by the teachers of all the modules of the integrated course.
Under no circumstances shall the outcome of a discretionary oral examination be used to lower a grade that has been provisionally awarded in the written test.
Provisional marks in the written test will become candidates’ confirmed marks if she/he declines to attend a discretionary oral examination.

Teaching tools

On line presentations

Office hours

See the website of Matteo Cerri

See the website of Davide Martelli