First cycle
degree courses
Second cycle
degree courses
Single cycle
degree courses
School of Medicine
Course unit
FAM1027519, A.A. 2019/20

Information concerning the students who enrolled in A.Y. 2019/20

Information on the course unit
Degree course First cycle degree in
FA0243, Degree course structure A.Y. 2008/09, A.Y. 2019/20
bring this page
with you
Number of ECTS credits allocated 6.0
Type of assessment Mark
Course unit English denomination HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY
Department of reference Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences
Mandatory attendance No
Language of instruction Italian
Single Course unit The Course unit can be attended under the option Single Course unit attendance
Optional Course unit The Course unit can be chosen as Optional Course unit

Teacher in charge CRISTINA FASOLATO BIO/09

ECTS: details
Type Scientific-Disciplinary Sector Credits allocated
Basic courses BIO/09 Physiology 6.0

Course unit organization
Period Second semester
Year 1st Year
Teaching method frontal

Type of hours Credits Teaching
Hours of
Individual study
Lecture 6.0 48 102.0 No turn

Start of activities 02/03/2020
End of activities 12/06/2020
Show course schedule 2019/20 Reg.2008 course timetable

Prerequisites: In this course the students will learn that the primary purpose of physiology is the explanation of the mechanisms that maintain homeostasis, that is the relative constancy of the internal environment in the face of significant changes in the external environment. Emphasis will be placed on the fact that healthy subjects maintain different variables within very narrow limits. Students will learn how the individual parts of the body function at the organs, tissues and cells, and how they work in a coordinated way to influence each other. The course will give an overview of the most classic topics of physiology, chosen to exemplify the concepts mentioned above rather than to cover the entire sector. Students will also learn how different disciplines cooperate to form the basis of knowledge in physiology. The alteration of homeostasis and possible corrections are in fact a specific topic of pathology and pharmacology, two disciplines that allowed physiology to make significant progress. Essential prerequisites are basic knowledge of mathematics, anatomy, histology, biology and general chemistry.
Target skills and knowledge: Cellular Physiology - The student will address the physical and chemical principles on which cellular physiology is based. We will use both the intuitive and quantitative approach, limiting the use of equations to the minimum required for the description of general laws. The cellular and molecular pathways involved in the different functionalities will be examined case by case, within the different sections. The appropriate terminology and the precise knowledge of the molecular components will be acquired in the parallel courses of "Organic Chemistry" and "Biochemistry".

The Nervous System - Special attention will be devoted to understanding the mechanisms underlying cell excitability. The characteristics of electrical and chemical signals will be specifically analyzed at the neuronal level. The functional organization of the nervous system (motor, sensory and autonomous) will be addressed only to facilitate the study of the following chapters.

Muscle - Skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle will be analyzed in their similarities and specificities, in particular the basic mechanism of contraction and the different modalities of the excitation-contraction coupling.

The Cardiovascular System - In this section we will analyze the physiology of the cardiovascular system both as a circuit and in its main components: the cardiac pump, the "pacemaker" and its control by intrinsic and extrinsic factors (nervous and endocrine); the blood vessels and the factors that determine the average arterial pressure; the control of the peripheral circulation; the factors responsible for filtration and absorption through the capillary wall and lymph formation. The blood composition and the hemostasis process.

The Endocrine System - The student will have an overview of the different endocrine glands. It will be underlined how the endocrine system, similar to the nervous system, integrates the input stimuli and elaborates a complex set of responses to changes occurring in the internal and external environment.

The Respiratory System - The focus will be on the physical principles that allow the exchange of gases between alveoli and blood and between the latter and the peripheral tissues. It will also be presented schematically the mechanics of breathing and its control by chemical and nervous factors.

The Urinary System - The kidney will be presented in its ability to fine tune, and independently of each other, the two main components of the body: water and salts. Selected examples of filtration, secretion and reabsorption of different compounds will be presented. Emphasis will be placed on the central role of the kidney in controlling blood pressure.

The Gastrointestinal System - It will be presented in its coordinated functions of motility, secretion and absorption. The liver function and the endocrine role of the pancreas will be integrated with the notions acquired in the course of Biochemistry.
Examination methods: Written exam to be done in 2 hours with multiple choice questions (12) (4) with a schematic deepening of the chosen answer (4-5 lines of text).

There are no exams in Itinere.
During the course multiple choice or true / false questions will be proposed as an exercise for the exam in order to recall the concepts acquired and as a self-assessment modality.
Integration of the vote (after passing the written exam) on a voluntary basis or through group work on a topic chosen among different options proposed by the teacher, presented at the end of the course.
Assessment criteria: The performance of the exam according to the aforementioned method aims to assess the student * s ability to:
- understand a scientific question distinguishing between causes and effects;
- exclude incorrect answers by identifying the only correct answer;
- understand the relationship between structure (anatomy) and function (physiology);
- use appropriate measurement units and quantities;
- clearly display using a schematic and precise scientific language;
- make appropriate connections with similar topics;
- develop synthesis skills;
- develop in-depth knowledge and presentation to others of the material collected (optional group work).
Course unit contents: Section I - Cell Physiology (7h)
The concept of homeostasis. Composition of the intra- and extra-cellular environment.
Cell membranes.
Trans-membrane transports of solutes. Fick's law, water transport, osmosis and tonicity.
The water transport across the epithelium. The ionic balance and the Nernst’s equation. The membrane potential at rest.
Signal types: intra- and extra-cellular receptors, examples: specificity and timing, calcium and cAMP signals.

Section II - The nervous system - operating principles (8h)
Local electrical responses, post-synaptic potential and synaptic integration.
Generation and propagation of action potentials.
Electrical and chemical synapses. Role of toxins.
Main neurotransmitters. Ionotropic and metabotropic receptors.
Memory and modification of synapses. Neurons and glial cells.
Detection of sensory stimuli. Somatotopic maps, role of interneurons. Phasic and tonic responses, adaptation. Sensory afferences, general schem. Organs of sense, taste and smell.
Pain reception, gate theory, endogenous analgesia, reported pain.
The autonomic nervous system.

Section III - Muscle (3h)
Skeletal muscles, general features, isotonic and isometric contraction.
Contraction mechanism in muscle cells.
The excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle.
Motor nerves and motor units. The reflections. Neuromuscular spindles and Golgi tendon organs.
The heart muscle. The excitation-contraction coupling in the heart muscle.
The smooth muscle. The excitation-contraction coupling in smooth muscle.
How to activate the contraction and the release of the smooth muscles, examples.
Example of integrations of sensory afferent and autonomous and somatic efferent: urination

Sections IV - The cardiovascular system (9h)
The heart pump
The electrical activity of the heart. The intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of the heart.
Pre-load and post-load role. Arteries: a reserve of pressure. Mean arterial pressure and its control.
The veins: a reserve of volume. The law of Poiseuille. The flow velocity in the circuit
Microcirculation and the lymphatic system.
Paracrine, humoral and nervous control of the circuit.
A special circulation: the cerebrospinal fluid and the blood-brain barrier.
Blood and hemostasis.

Section IV - The endocrine system (4h)
The hypothalamus and the hypophysis.
The adrenals: medullary and cortical (only Glucorticoids - for Mineralcorticoids see the renal system).
The thyroid. The parathyroids.

Section VI - The Respiratory System (4h)
Structure and function of the respiratory system.
Transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide: tissue oxygenation.
Breath control.

Section VII - The Kidney (8h)
Functions of the urinary system; the nephron, the functional unit.
Basic processes of renal exchange: glomerular filtration, reabsorption and secretion.
Water and sodium balance. Control of osmolality and body volume.
The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
The balance of the solutes (potassium, calcium, phosphate, ammonia and protons).

Section VIII - The gastrointestinal system (5h)
Digestion and absorption of nutrients and water.
Secretion & gastrointestinal motility.
The liver and its functions.
Hormones of the pancreatic islets.
Control of hunger and satiety.
Planned learning activities and teaching methods: The course consists of 48 lectures (6 CFU). In each lesson slides with very brief messages will be used. The figures come from a main text and from other supporting texts, appropriately indicated. Examples from clinical cases with references to pathology and pharmacology are regularly present to underline how these fields are closely related. Additional images and comments also come from scientific reviews, published in international journals, appropriately indicated. The material proposed in the lesson is supplied as a 6-slide pdf per page on the Moodle platform. During the lectures, some topics will be studied in English through the websites of the adopted text or others. The purpose of the slides is also to provide different sources and to get users to consult multiple sources.
Additional notes about suggested reading: Adopted text:
Human Physiology - an integrated approach – Silverthorn - Pearson

Principles of Human Physiology - Stanfield, Pearson
Physiology - Ganong

Recommended texts for details and exercises:
Physiology - Klinke, Silbernagl
Principles of Neurosciences - Kandel et al. McGrow-Hill
Textbooks (and optional supplementary readings)
  • Dee Unglaub Silverthorn, Fisiologia Umana Un approccio integrato. Milano: Pearson, 2017. Cerca nel catalogo

Innovative teaching methods: Teaching and learning strategies
  • Case study
  • Working in group
  • Use of online videos
  • Loading of files and pages (web pages, Moodle, ...)
  • Students peer review

Innovative teaching methods: Software or applications used
  • Moodle (files, quizzes, workshops, ...)