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Unit information: Fundamentals of Body Function in 2020/21

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Unit name Fundamentals of Body Function
Unit code PHPH10014
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Helyer
Open unit status Not open

None (A-level biology recommended)



School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


An introduction to physiology, with an emphasis on mammalian physiology. The following topics are covered: homeostasis, cell biology and physiology, nervous system and muscle, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, endocrinology and reproduction. Practical classes are supported by an online dynamic laboratory manual, eBioLabs, and complement the lecture topics. Practicals include investigating the physiology of cells and tissues, and the function of the human nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory and renal systems.


  • To promote understanding of the basic physiological mechanisms governing the function of mammalian body systems.
  • To expose students to a range of activities thereby developing the attitudes and skills desirable for scientific study.
  • To develop the attributes necessary for lifelong learning.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit you should be able to:

  1. explain the concept of 'internal environment' and how homeostatic mechanisms maintain this within narrow limits;
  2. explain how the various systems of the body work together to maintain the constancy of the internal environment;
  3. describe cell biology, resting potentials, action potentials and transmission across synapses;
  4. describe the general organisation of the nervous system including the autonomic nervous system, the spinal cord and the brain;
  5. describe muscle activity (skeletal, cardiac and smooth)
  6. give an account of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and renal systems;
  7. explain how endocrine systems work within the body;
  8. explain the physiology of the reproductive system;
  9. analyse and test physiological data with due regard to scientific method and appropriate statistical techniques.

Teaching details



eBiolabs (supporting practicals)

Large group tutorials

Assessment Details

  • Coursework 30%
  • Exam (end of unit) 70%

Reading and References

Recommended Reading:

Physiology (5th Edition), Costanzo, L.S. 2014, Elsevier, ISBN: 978-1-4557-0847-5

This book covers the fundamentals of physiology well and is recommended by students.

Further Reading:

Human Physiology, Davies, A., Blakely A.G.H. and Kidd C., Churchill Livingstone, ISBN:0443045593

Medical Physiology (2nd Edition), Boron F. and Boulpaep E.L., 2012, Elsevier, ISBN: 978-1437717532

You should be aware that the Medical Library stocks a good range of textbooks including those listed above.