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Physiology: the Science of Life

Get an introduction to human physiology and the amazing systems in our bodies that keep us alive.

17,545 enrolled on this course

Physiology: the Science of Life
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Explore 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 course, in partnership with the Physiological Society, will take you beneath the surface of three key physiological systems - respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous - allowing you to explore the discipline of physiology.

You will also examine some of the practical uses of physiology and consider the exciting career opportunities available if you study physiology.

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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!

What topics will you cover?

  • Week 1 - The Respiratory System
  • Week 2 - The Cardiovascular System
  • Week 3 - The Nervous System

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. 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?

The course might be of particular use for 16-19 year olds studying biology and physiology, and considering further studies in these areas on degrees like medicine, dentistry or other healthcare and life sciences. However, we would hope that anyone who enrols on this course would enjoy the learning experience and gain useful knowledge about the human body.

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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