Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)
To attend the course of General Physiology, students must have notions of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Comparative Anatomy, at the level of the corresponding Biological Sciences courses. Basic notions on Biochemistry would be beneficial.
The course constitutes of theoretical classes to take place in a total period of 72 hours. Practical classes with the use of living animals or recently dissected organs will not take place to spare animal’s life and suffering. During theoretical classes, however, numerical simulations will be conducted on dynamics and regulation of physiological parameters, particularly in the cardiovascular field.
The aim of the General Physiology course is to provide the students with basic knowledge of structure and specific functions of organs and apparatuses in animal organisms (particularly Vertebrates).
Ability to apply the knowledge:
Another aim of the General Physiology course is that of the increase of student’s knowledge on the application of laws of physics and physical chemistry on the understanding of basic and regulatory mechanisms in animal organs and apparatuses.
Another aim is the development of the student’s attitude towards the general usage of the Scientific Method. Another aim is that of promoting the knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of the main analytical methods in use in different fields of the biological research.
Course classes will cover the present list of topics:
Overview of aims, theories and methods of General Physiology.
Morphology and functional organization of Central Nervous System and neuromuscular apparatus.
Structure and functions of membranes in excitable cells. Membrane electric field and potential. Electrochemical potential. Ionic composition of intra and extracellular fluids; Nernst´s equation and the equilibrium potential. Membrane permeability; ion pumps.
The action potential. Electric models of excitable membranes. Membrane ionic conductance; voltage-dependent channels. Initiation and distance transmission of the action potential.
The sensory structures and functions. Sensory receptors. Special sensory organs in marine animals.
Synapses: morphology and functions. Electrical synapses. Chemical synapses. Synaptic transmitters; synaptic membrane receptors. Excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic potentials.
Skeletal and smooth muscles: features and functions. The role of skeletal muscles in movements and posture. Skeletal muscle structure: biochemistry and the constituents of the functional unit (sarcomere). The neuromuscular synapse and nervous command. Excitation-contraction coupling. Nature and role of the visco-elastic components in contraction. Vertebrate posture and movements.
The Vertebrate circulatory apparatus: morphology and functional features. Functions of myocardium and conduction tissue. Mechanics of the cardiac cycle. Electric events of the cardiac cycle and electrocardiography. Blood vessel structure at the microscopic and macroscopic level, with references to blood circulation. Circulatory physics and hemodynamics. Regulation in hemodynamic parameters: physiology of the intrinsic regulation. External regulation: Autonomic Nervous System and the integrated cardiovascular reflexes.
The Vertebrate respiratory apparatus: morphology and functions. Mechanics in lungs, airways and thoracic cage. Mechanics of the respiratory cycle: automatic cycle control ad its chemical regulation.
Gas exchanges in gills, alveoli and in tissues. Physical chemistry of gas exchanges through epithelia.
Blood transport of respiratory gases. Structure and functions of the haemoglobins and myoglobin.
The renal apparatus in Vertebrates and non-Vertebrates: morphology and functions. Physics of glomerular filtration; measurement and physiological relevance of the renal clearance of blood substances.
The tubular reabsorption. Outline of the transport of solutes in cells; membrane carriers. Water obligatory and facultative reabsorption.
The pH in body fluids. Buffer systems in extra and intracellular fluids. Physiological and pathological pH changes and their renal regulation.
Methods for assessing learning outcomes:
Exams for the General Physiology course constitute by a written test and an oral examination. There will be no mid-term exams.
The written test constitute of three short texts, as responses to questions on general physiological topics. Question titles will indicate sub-topics, following a possible logical progression from general to specific topics; students will be free, however, to develop in their writings a personal path for the expression of their knowledge.
As an early evaluation each writing will be scored to a maximum of ten points.
The oral examination will take the form of a discussion/revision of writings and could either add or subtract points to their earlier score.
Criteria for assessing learning outcomes:
Students should show in their written answers and during the oral discussion the followings
1. To have knowledge of the structure and the anatomical relations of organs and apparatuses where physiological mechanisms listed in the course program take place;
2. To have knowledge of physics and physical chemistry laws on which those mechanisms are based;
3. To have proficiency on the applications of those laws to explain physiological mechanisms. In the occurrence of crucial experiments on those mechanisms, students should describe the logical frame that links the design of the experiments themselves and their results.
Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The maximum possible score for each of the written answers will be 10 points. This maximum score will be reduced by multiplication by a number ranging from 1.0 to 0.75, following the tested level of knowledge on the matter described at the first point of the previous paragraph. A reduction corresponding to the lesser fraction will also apply when students will show sole knowledge of memorized data and/or evidently misunderstand the anatomical and functional reality of organs and apparatuses. The same reduction will also apply for the lack of knowledge on the laws described at the second point of the previous paragraph and for the lack of proficiency on the logical application of those laws, as at the third point of the paragraph. The multiplication of all fractional numbers with the maximum possible score will constitute the actual score for the written exam; this score could be modified by the refinement of the fractions following the oral examination.
Criteria for conferring final mark:
The final score constitutes by points out of a maximum of 30, constituted by the sum of the scores of each written answer (10 points multiplied by the fractional numbers). Students will pass the exam by a minimum of 18 points or higher score. A ‘cum laude’ praise is granted to students whenever they attain a maximum score and demonstrate a full mastery of the matter.
Detailed lecture notes on the General Physiology course (A-L), in the University online site.
Textbook by different Authors (edited by E. D'Angelo and A. Peres). Fisiologia: molecole, cellule e sistemi. EdiErmes, Milano.
C. Casella V. Taglietti (Auth.s) Principi di Fisiologia - Volume I e II, La Goliardica Pavese.
D.U. Silverthorn (Auth.) Fisiologia, Casa Editrice Ambrosiana.