Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience

Module code: BS1060

Module co-ordinator: Dr Volko Straub

The module will introduce you to the study of Physiology at a cellular level. You will learn how cellular functions are integrated in the whole animal through a study of the control of bodily function by the nervous system, and some features of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and renal systems. We will also look at some aspects of cellular pharmacology: how receptors and drugs control bodily function.

Your introduction to cellular and systems physiology of the human body will focus on homeostatic mechanisms. We will explore how physiological processes in whole tissues and systems can be understood in terms of the underlying cellular mechanisms, including chemical and electrical events. We will examine the neural control of voluntary movements and the regulation of involuntary functions by the autonomic nervous system, alongside cellular processes in the endocrine system, skeletal muscle, cardio-respiratory, renal and gastrointestinal systems.

Topics covered

  • Cellular homeostasis and membrane physiology: permeation through channels, carriers and pumps
  • Excitable tissues: resting membrane potentials and action potentials of nerve and muscle cells
  • Pharmacology, receptors and signalling: an introduction to pharmacological concepts, receptor function and signalling pathways; synaptic mechanisms
  • Organisation of the autonomic nervous system; neurotransmitters and molecular receptors
  • Spinal cord organisation and its role in posture control; spinal reflexes
  • Organisation and function of the endocrine system
  • Muscular contraction and its regulation
  • Respiration mechanics, gas exchanges in the lungs and blood transport of O2 and CO2
  • The kidneys and the regulation of body fluids
  • The gastrointestinal system, movements, secretions, and the absorption of nutrients, electrolytes, and water


  • 28 one-hour lectures
  • 2 two-hour practicals
  • 6 two-hour work sessions


  • Exam (70%)
  • Online assessment (30%)