91011 - Human Physiology

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Marco Caprini

  • Learning modules Marco Caprini (Modulo 1)
    (Modulo 2)

  • Credits 12

  • SSD BIO/09

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures (Modulo 1)
    Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)

  • Language English

  • Campus of Rimini

  • Degree Programme Single cycle degree programme (LMCU) in Pharmacy (cod. 9078)

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student: - has a good knowledge of cell physiology, cell excitability and functional characteristics of nerve and muscle cells; - knows how sensory information are processed and coded; - knows the mechanisms of activation and control of body movements and the fundamentals of the higher functions of the nervous system; - knows the physiology of endocrine, reproductive, cardiovascular, respiratory and urinary systems; - is able to integrate this knowledge to understand the mechanisms of neuroendocrine control of vegetative functions. Practical exercises based on direct measurement of functional parameters in humans and in experimental models allow a more in-depth understanding of the topics covered.

Course contents

Module 1 Prof. Caprini Marco


Diffusion and transport across the plasma membrane

Composition of intracellular and extracellular compartments. Homeostasis. Functional features of the plasma membrane. Mechanisms of diffusion and transport across the plasma membrane. Osmosis. Plasma membrane ion channels. Membrane receptors.

Ionic equilibria and membrane potentials

Ion fluxes and ion equilibria. Physico-chemical bases of the resting membrane potential. Role of the sodium-potassium pump. Graded potentials. Pacemaker activity. Action potential: origin and propagation in myelinated and unmyelinated axons.

Synaptic transmission

Chemical and electrical synapses. Presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms of chemical transmission. Postsynaptic excitatory and inhibitory potentials. Neurotransmitters: synthesis, release, interaction with membrane receptors, inactivation.

Skeletal muscle cell

Structure of the skeletal muscle cell. Neuromuscular synaptic transmission. Excitation-contraction coupling. Molecular mechanism of contraction. Graduation of strength in the muscle contraction. Skeletal muscle cell metabolism.

Smooth muscle cell

Structure of the smooth muscle cell. Single-unit and multi-unit smooth muscles. Molecular mechanisms and control of contraction. Pacemaker activity and neural, hormonal, mechanical and chemical modulation of single-unit smooth muscles contraction.

Cardiac muscle cell and Electrical activity of the heart

Electrical characteristics of cardiac cells. Origin and spread of cardiac excitation. Refractory period of the heart. Control of excitation and conduction in the heart.



Module 2 Prof.Francesco Formaggio

Nervous system

Anatomo-functional organization of the nervous system

Principal functional elements of the nervous system. Classification of neurons, nerve fibers and glial cells. Functional organization of the central and peripheral nervous system. Blood-brain barrier.

Sensory systems

General principles of sensory physiology. Functional organization of sensory systems. Sensory receptors. Mechanisms of signal transduction, coding of stimulus type, intensity, duration and location. Pathways from sensory receptors to the cerebral cortex. Somatosensory (touch, proprioception, interoception, thermoception, pain), visual, auditory, vestibular, gustatory and olfactory systems: adequate stimuli, specific receptors, mechanisms of signal transduction, ascending neural pathways, cortical representation and elaboration.

General principles of sensory physiology. Functional organization of sensory systems. Sensory receptors. Mechanisms of stimulation transduction, coding of the type of stimulus, its intensity, duration and location. Tonic and phasic receptors.

Somatic motor nervous system

Functional organization of the somatic motor nervous system. Reflex arcs, reflex motor responses, central control of reflexes. Posture and locomotor movements. Voluntary movements: central and peripheral control.

Autonomic nervous system

Anatomo-functional organization of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric sections. Pre- and post-ganglionic neurotransmitters. Nicotinic and muscarinic cholinergic receptors. Alpha and beta adrenergic receptors. Effects of sympathetic and parasympathetic stimulation on different organs. Autonomic reflexes.

Higher functions of the nervous system

Association areas of the cerebral cortex. Limbic system. Emotions and mood, vigilance, attention, function of nervous ascending pathways. Electroencephalography, wake-sleep cycle. Learning, memory, synaptic plasticity.

Endocrine system

Neuroendocrine integrated functions

General principles of hormonal physiology. Mechanisms of hormonal action. Mechanisms of control of hormonal secretion. Role of hypothalamus and pituitary gland on the control of hormone secretion.

Physiological functions of hormones

Physiological functions of pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and pancreatic hormones.

Reproductive system

Female reproductive system

Functional anatomy of the female reproductive system. Ovarian cycle. Estrogen and progesterone functions. Endometrial cycle. Hypothalamic control of ovarian function. Fertilization. Hormonal factors during pregnancy, delivery and lactation.

Male reproductive system

Functional anatomy of the male reproductive system. Spermatogenesis. Seminal fluid. Testosterone functions. Hypothalamic control of testicular function.

Cardiovascular system

Organization of cardiovascular system

Scheme of the cardiovascular system. Characteristics of the systemic and pulmonary circulation. Blood composition, volume and functions. Hematic cells. Hemostasis.

Mechanical activity of the heart

Functional anatomy of the heart. Mechanical events of the cardiac cycle. Blood pressure and blood volume in atria and ventricles.

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 system

Characteristics and functions of the vascular system: arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, veins and lymphatic vessels. Hemodynamics: relation between flow, pressure and resistance. Pressure profile in the systemic circulation. Return of venous blood to the heart. Diffusion across the capillary wall. Regulation of local blood flow.

Regulation of blood arterial pressure

Normal values and range of variation of the blood arterial pressure. Mechanisms of regulation of arterial pressure.

Respiratory system

Pulmonary ventilation

Functional anatomy of the respiratory system. Characteristics and functions of the conducting zone and alveolar walls. Mechanics of pulmonary ventilation. Changes of alveolar and intrapleural pressure during respiratory cycle. Ventilation and alveolar perfusion. Lung volumes and capacities.

Exchanges of gases in lungs and tissues

Composition of atmospheric and alveolar air. Ultrastructure of the air-blood barrier. Physical and biological factors involved in oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange in lungs and tissues.

Blood transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide

Transport of oxygen in the blood. Oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve, functional implications and regulatory factors. Transport of carbon dioxide in the blood and regulatory factors.

Control mechanisms of respiratory activity

Neurogenesis of the respiratory rhythm. Brainstem and encephalic structures involved in breathing control. Nervous modulation of rhythmical breathing: nervous centers and afferent nervous signals. Central and peripheral chemoreceptors, breathing control by carbon dioxide, pH and oxygen.

Urinary system

Basic renal processes

Functional anatomy of the kidney. Processes involved in urine production. Glomerular filtration: glomerular filtration barrier, velocity of filtration, physiological control of glomerular filtration. Tubular reabsorption and secretion. Renal clearance.

Diuresis regulation

Mechanisms of diuresis regulation. Mechanism of urine concentration: the loop of Henle and the countercurrent multiplier system. Regulation of renal water and sodium reabsorption.

Regulation of acid-base balance

Biological buffer systems. Respiratory and renal homeostatic response to variations of the acid-base equilibrium.


Mechanisms of heat production and dissipation in the body. The normal body temperature. Factors that alter the body temperature. Body temperature regulation. Fever.

Experimental activities

Functional activity of neurons. Electrocardiography. Measure of the blood arterial pressure. Spirometry.



Suggested textbook: Silverthorn DU - Fisiologia Umana: un approccio integrato. Ed Pearson (ottava edizione)

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons

Assessment methods

The final evaluation of the student will be assessed with an oral examination consisting of one question on module 1 and two for the module 2.

To register for the final exam the student must use the web page AlmaEsami of Unibo.

Teaching tools

During the classes powerpoint presentations will be used. All the material used will be uploaded on the Unibo portal

Powerpoint presentations are conceived to be solely an introduction to the textbook learning

Office hours

See the website of Marco Caprini

See the website of