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Course overview

The aim of the course is to give comprehensive coverage to systems physiology, concentrating on mammals, in particular man. The course builds from knowledge of function at the cellular level to the complex operation of major body systems at the level of the whole organism. About 80% of the course is devoted to the study of all the major body systems. The remaining 20% takes an integrated approach to examine how these systems respond to various challenges from the everyday to the extreme.

In the first term and part of the second term, we cover some of the animal physiology systems that were introduced to you in PoO, but in more detail and from a very different perspective. Cardiovascular, renal, digestive and respiratory physiology are expanded upon, in a similar depth to what the medics get, while new subjects such as body weight and obesity, ECF volume and pH control, surfactant and breathing mechanics, calcium metabolism, growth hormone actions, symbiotic gut microbes and comparative digestion are discussed.

Half of the second term is spent focussing on reproductive physiology, which is not studied at all in IA. You will look at the mammalian reproductive system: sex, embryonic and fetal development, birth and lactation. Because they are shared with the veterinary students, these lectures are given from a comparative mammalian perspective.

Having established a really solid understanding of general systems physiology, the lectures in the third term look at applied physiology: how we and other animals react to unusual circumstances. There is a course on exercise physiology, including lectures from external experts. There follow lectures on physiology in extreme environments, such as desert, Arctic, high altitude and even outer space!

The course also includes some exciting experimental practicals, which take a similar form to those in IA. Experimental practical work is largely designed to allow students to study their own physiology. Examples include examining the effects of exercise on cardiac output and oxygen consumption, the effects of eating chocolate on blood glucose and respiratory quotient and the functioning of the heart. Part of the Lent Term is given over to the assessment of fitness and the effects of training in selected individuals. There are also some histology classes designed to help you appreciate relationships between structure and function.