00443 - General Physiology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to illustrate the molecular e cellular basis, as well as the main homeostatic control and integration mechanisms, of selected functions of humans and animals.

Course contents

Levels of organization in living organisms. Structure-function relationships. General characteristics of homeostatic control systems. Body fluid compartments and basic chemical and physical aspects of the cellular physiology: trans-membrane diffusion and transport, osmotic flux of the water, pumps and ionic channels. Electrochemical driving forces and origin of the resting membrane electrical potential. Electrical signalling and cell excitability: action potentials and impulse conduction. Nerve cells physiology and general organization of the nervous system. Synaptic transmission: receptor proteins and neurotransmitters. Neuromuscolar junction in comparison with central nervous system synaptic transmission. Mechanisms of neuronal signal processing and integration. Mechanisms of synaptic modulation and synaptic changes: elementary models of learning and memory. General aspects of sensory physiology: sensory receptors and transduction mechanisms concerning the main sensory modalities with particular focus on somatic sensation and vision. Proprioception and simple neuronal circuit organization of monosynaptic reflex arcs. Skeletal muscle. Molecular mechanisms of contraction and excitation-contraction coupling. Mechanical aspects of contraction. Types of skeletal fibers and muscle energy metabolism. Cardiac muscle and heart function. The cardiac output. Control of heart rate and stroke volume. Salt-water regulation and renal function. Endocrine signalling: main classes of hormones and their mechanisms of action. Functional coordination between nervous and endocrine systems.

At the end of the course, it will be available an updated and more detailed list of course contents.


 C. L. Stanfield. PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY (V Edit.). Pearson, Benjamin Cummings.
Italian Edition: C. L. Stanfield. FISIOLOGIA (V Ediz.). EdiSES Napoli.

Teaching methods

Frontal lectures and lab training with some time dedicated to deepening and discussion. In order to enhance cohesion and integration of the presented topics, the course develops along three main benchmarks: structure-function correlations and adaptive processes; physicochemical nature of signals and fluxes of biological information underlying regulation, integration and homeostasis of physiological processes and, finally, energy transformations and mechanisms of recruitment of energetic resources driving animal functions.

Assessment methods

The final examination consists of a written exercise in which the student will have to critically discuss 4 topics (open questions) and answer a collection of 20 closed questions (multiple choice questions). Before to have the mark ultimately recorded, the student will have to orally discuss his work and this give him an opportunity to improve his final mark.

Teaching tools

Frontal lectures using Power Point slides and video projectors. Virtual lab software. Lab equipment for practical training.

Office hours

See the website of Marco Virgili