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Physiology: The Science of Life

Explore human physiology, how key physiological systems work, and the ways to analyse their function in action.

19,204 enrolled on this course

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Physiology: The Science of Life

19,204 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Unlimited subscription

    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Discover the amazing physiological systems that keep us alive

Physiology is the study of normal function within living things. It examines and explains how organisms, organs, and cells carry out the chemical and physical processes that keep us going.

This three-week course from the University of Liverpool, in partnership with the Physiological Society, will take you beneath the surface of three key physiological systems (respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous), giving you an in-depth exploration of the discipline of physiology.

Delve into the basics of physiology, from respiration to the cardiovascular and nervous system

On this course, you’ll journey through three physiological systems, exploring how they work both separately and together, and how our understanding of human physiology has changed throughout history.

Explore a number of physiological disorders and how they affect the body

Each physiological system in our body is fine-tuned to make sure our cells and organs get enough oxygen and our body can carry out a wide range of functions. Any disruption can cause a number of disorders.

Alongside understanding how these systems work, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss how and why they can fail, and the number of respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological disorders this can create.

Discover tests to analyse each system in action such as the Harvard step test and spirometry

With our physiological systems being so vital, it’s important that we can test each system’s health.

You’ll look at ways that these systems can be analysed. You’ll start by exploring how to use a Bendict-Roth Spirometer to analyse lung volumes before looking at a Vitalograph to analyse both static and dynamic lung volumes.

You’ll also learn how you can complete a modified version of the Harvard Step Test to check your own level of cardiovascular fitness.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds How do the organs in our body function? How does the human body keep control of these organs? And if something should go wrong or fail, what happens? In order to answer these questions, and others like it, we need an understanding of Physiology My name is Dr. Terry Gleave, and I am a Lecturer in Human Physiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool. I will be leading this online course on Physiology, which has been developed in partnership with the Physiological Society.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds Physiology is the science of life; it is the part of biology, which aims to develop an understanding of how things work in the human body. It provides the foundation for the biological and clinical sciences, and is key to the detection, prevention and treatment of diseases. In the same way as an engineer aims to understand mechanical structures, a physiologist is interested in biological functions. In other words, as Physiologists we aim to understand the mechanisms of living. This free online course is aimed at anyone interested in how the human body works, and you don’t need any previous experience to participate.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds We will take you beneath the surface of three key physiological systems: Respiratory; Cardiovascular; and Nervous systems, allowing you to explore the discipline of physiology. As you proceed through the course you will have the opportunity to learn how each of these systems works. For each system, we start by looking at its history, and how our scientific knowledge has developed over time. You will see demonstrations of how we are able to measure the functionality of each system, giving you the knowledge to understand how they are influenced and how they respond to changes in their environment.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds We will also look at some of the common chronic diseases associated with each of the systems, and discuss the ways in which they can affect the human body.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds Throughout this online course you will have the fantastic opportunity 00:02:11.300 –> 00:02:16.833 to learn from some of the leading Physiologists in each of their respective fields.

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 seconds So, with all that come and join us as we learn about Physiology; the Science of Life!


  • Week 1


    • Welcome to the Course

      Join Dr. Terry Gleave as we look at a number of human physiological systems, including: the Respiratory System, the Cardiovascular System, and the Nervous System.

    • Human Respiration

      In Week One, we look at the Human Respiratory system and learn about how we get air in and out of the lungs, and how it is carried around the body.

    • Respiration in Action

      Take a look at some of the clinical tests that are used to asses respiratory function.

    • A Different Perspective ...

      Hear from some of the leading experts in the field of respiratory physiology.

    • Summary

      Let's see what you have learned this week!

  • Week 2


    • Cardiovascular System

      This week, we learn about the cardiac cycle, what an ECG is used for, and learn about the effect of exercise on the human cardiovascular system.

    • Cardiovascular System in Action

      This is your chance to get involved in the course, and participate in one the clinical tests used to asses cardiovascular function.

    • A Different Perspective ...

      Hear from some of the leading experts in the field of cardiovascular physiology.

    • Summary

      Let's see what you have learned this week!

  • Week 3

    The Nervous System

    • Nervous System

      This week, we look at the structure and organisation of the nervous system, and learn about the electrical activity of a nerve.

    • Nervous System in Action

      Take a look at a clinical test used to asses neurophysiological function.

    • A Different Perspective ...

      Hear from some of the leading experts in the field of neurophysiology.

    • Summary and Next Steps

      Interested in study opportunities and careers related to Physiology? Find out more here!

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the cardiac cycle (atrial systole, ventricular systole and diastole) and relate the structure and operation of the mammalian heart to its function, including the major blood vessels.
  • Describe the roles of the sinoatrial node (SAN), the atrioventricular node (AVN) and the bundle of His, and how the use of electrocardiograms (ECGs) can aid the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other heart conditions.
  • Explain how variations in ventilation & cardiac output enable rapid delivery of oxygen removal of carbon dioxide to tissue, including how the heart rate and ventilation rate are controlled, and the roles of the cardiovascular control & ventilation centres
  • Describe how to investigate the effects of exercise on tidal volume and breathing rate using data from spirometer traces.
  • Describe how a nerve impulse (action potential) is conducted along an axon including changes in membrane permeability to sodium and potassium ions and the role of the nodes of Ranvier.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone currently studying biology or physiology, specifically students aged 16-19 considering further studies in medicine, dentistry, or other healthcare areas and life sciences.

It may also be of interest to anyone looking to learn more about the human body and the systems that keep us alive.

What do people say about this course?

"I'm a FutureLearn addict, severely disabled from a long term medical condition. This course looks like it might enable me to combine that addiction with a greater understanding of the posture problems that arise from long-term wheelchair use."

Who will you learn with?

I am the programme director and admissions tutor for the Human Physiology B.Sc. (Hons) programme, and also a senior academic advisor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool.

Who developed the course?

University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool is ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.

Physiological Society

The Physiological Society is the largest network of physiologists in Europe and we continue our 140-year tradition of being at the forefront of the life sciences.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

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Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 19 Mar 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 4 March 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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