Skip to main content

Unit information: Understanding Body Function A in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Understanding Body Function A
Unit code PHPH10010
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Frankie MacMillan
Open unit status Not open

Normally GCSE (grade C minimum) Double Science plus one biological or physical science A-level.



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

Description including Unit Aims

An introduction to physiology, with an emphasis on mammalian physiology. The following topics are covered: cell biology and physiology, nervous system and muscle, and cardiovascular and respiratory systems. 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 and respiratory systems. Skills and lecture content will be supported by large and small group tutorials.


  • 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 and respiratory systems;
  7. collect physiological data with due regard to scientific method;
  8. analyse and test physiological data using appropriate statistical techniques.
  9. present and discuss physiological data in writing.

Teaching Information



eBiolabs (supporting practicals)

Small and large group tutorials

Assessment Information


Timed Essay - 10% (35minutes; no word limit) (1-6, 9)

Practical assessments via eBioLabs - 10% (7-9)

January exam (2 hour)- 80% (1-6)

Formative (Tutorial work):

Exam questions practice


Reading and References

You will need to consult textbooks to consolidate the information you are given in lectures and practicals.

Many textbooks are suitable for the course; an alphabetical selection is given below.


  • Berne & Levy - Physiology
  • Bray, Cragg, MacKnight, Mills & Taylor - Lecture Notes on Human Physiology
  • Costanzo (2nd Edn) - Physiology
  • Davies, Blakeley & Kidd - Human Physiology
  • Ganong - Human Physiology
  • Guyton & Hall - Textbook of Medical Physiology
  • Vander, Sherman & Luciano - Review of Medical Physiology

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