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What is Physiology?

Last Updated : 04 Dec, 2023
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Physiology is the fascinating study of how living organisms function and maintain life. Physiology explores the intricate mechanisms that keep our bodies ticking. Delving into the diverse world of physiology reveals the intricate ballet of cells, organs, and organ systems working seamlessly to sustain life. The study of physiology is vast and diverse it is further divided into multiple subparts. One such sub-part of physiology is human physiology which is the study of how the human body functions and maintains life.

Human physiology helps us to study and understand all the complex mechanisms of the human body that keep us alive. With the help of human physiology, we can explore the secrets of our body to ensure that we can function well throughout our natural lifetime and our body can cope with the impact of various diseases and disorders.

Physiology

What is Physiology?

Physiology is the study of how living organisms function and maintain life. It explores the mechanisms of cellular processes, providing detailed information on the basics of our biological functions. This branch of science uncovers the complex interaction of organ systems, revealing the complex mechanisms that sustain life. In simple meaning, physiology serves as a guide to the understanding of the mechanisms of cells and organs, providing insights into the vital processes that define our existence. With the help of physiological studies, we gain detailed knowledge of the interconnected systems within the body of any organism, from the simplest functions to the complex workings of organ systems ultimately helping us to understand life.

History of Physiology

The history of physiology dates back to the scholars of ancient civilizations like India and Greece. Some of them are listed below;

  • Hippocrates (460 to 375 BCE): He is considered the father of physiology due to his contributions to various physiological observations.
  • William Harvey (1578–1657): He contributed to the study of blood circulation and cardiovascular physiology.
  • Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777): He contributed to the study of nerve and muscle physiology.
  • Claude Bernard (1813–1878): He is considered the father of modern experimental physiology due to his contribution to the study of homeostasis.
  • Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936): His work on understanding behaviour and physiological responses was a huge contribution to the field of physiology.
  • Sir Alan Hodgkin (1914–1998) and Sir Andrew Huxley (1917–2012): They explained that nerve impulse propagation was a huge contribution to the field of physiology.
  • Francis Crick (1916–2004) and James Watson (1928–2003): They discovered the structure of DNA which was a huge contribution to the field of physiological research.
  • Rosalind Franklin (1920–1958): His work on the study of molecular physiology was a huge contribution to the field of physiology.

Branches of Physiology

Physiology can be further divided into the following branches;

  • Human Physiology: It deals with the study of the mechanisms of the human body.
  • Animal Physiology: It deals with the study of the mechanisms of different types of animals.
  • Plant Physiology: It deals with the study of the mechanisms of different types of plants.
  • Cell Physiology: It deals with the study of the mechanisms of cells.
  • Neurophysiology: It deals with the study of the mechanisms of neurons.
  • Endocrinology: It deals with the study of the mechanism of the endocrine system.
  • Molecular Physiology: It deals with the study of molecular mechanisms of genes, proteins, and cellular structures.

Who are Physiologists?

The scientists that deal with the study of the functioning of living organisms. Their research involves a detailed study of cells, organs, and organ systems of different types of living organisms. They study the intricacies of biological processes. They often specialize in distinct areas such as human physiology, animal physiology, or plant physiology, each offering insights into specific facets of life processes. Physiologists also investigate how the body responds to various conditions, spanning environmental influences to the effects of physical activity giving detailed information on the living system.

Human Physiology

Human physiology is the study of how the human body functions. It is done by examining the coordinated function of various systems and organs to sustain life. William Harvey, commonly acknowledged as the “Father of Human Physiology,” made significant contributions in the 17th century, particularly with his groundbreaking discoveries on blood circulation. The study of human physiology explores cellular processes and the complex workings of organ systems, providing valuable details into the mechanisms governing human health. By providing knowledge on how the body maintains balance and responds to different conditions, human physiology plays a pivotal role in medical sciences, research, diagnostics, and our understanding of human life.

Types of Human Physiology

Some of the types of human physiology are;

  • Cardiovascular Physiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the heart, blood, and blood vessels.
  • Neurophysiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the nervous system and its all aspects.
  • Respiratory Physiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of breathing and respiratory system of the body.
  • Endocrinology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the hormones and the glands associated with the human body.
  • Renal Physiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the urinary system of the body.
  • Reproductive Physiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the reproductive system and the organs of the human body.
  • Gastrointestinal Physiology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the digestive system of the human body.
  • Immunology: Helps us to understand the functioning of the defence mechanism of the human body.

Systems of Human Physiology

Some of the systems of human physiology are listed below;

Branches-of-Physiology

1. Endocrine System

It comprises glands like the thyroid gland, adrenal gland, pineal gland, etc. These glands are responsible for the secretion of hormones into the bloodstream that help in the regulation of the various physiological processes of the human body like metabolism, growth, etc.

2. Nervous System

It comprises nerves and neurons that comprise the central and peripheral nervous system that functions by transmitting electrical signals/nerve impulses to control various functions of the human body. It consists of the brain, spinal cord, and neurons that spread throughout the body.

3. Immune System

It comprises the components that protect the body from foreign particles like bacteria, viruses, etc. that can cause harm to the human body. To achieve this the immune system consists of WBC, lymph nodes, and organs like the spleen and thymus.

4. Excretory System

It comprises the urinary system that contains the kidney, bladder, urinary tract, etc. of the human body. This system ensures that the blood that contains wastes, excess ions, etc. gets filtered with the help of kidneys. These wastes are excreted out of the body with the help of external genitalia.

5. Circulatory System

It comprises the heart, blood, and blood vessels of the human body. This system ensures that all the nutrients, wastes, gases, hormones, and drugs get transported throughout the body to their destinations.

6. Respiratory System

It comprises the lungs and the respiratory tract of the human body. This system ensures that the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the external atmosphere and the circulatory system. It is done by the process of inspiration and expiration of air i.e. the breathing mechanism. The utilization of oxygen in cellular metabolism ensures the generation of energy by the cells i.e. cellular respiration.

7. Digestive System

It comprises the alimentary canal, stomach, liver, intestines, pancreas, and various associated structures of the human body. This system ensures that the food ingested gets digested and the nutrients are broken down by the digestive enzymes for absorption.

8. Skeletal System

It comprises bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons of the human body. This system ensures support to the body and various vital organs of the body. This system enables the structure and movement of the body.

9. Reproductive System

It comprises various reproductive hormones like testosterone and estrogen, and specific reproductive organs like the testis and penis in the male, and ovaries and uterus in the female body. This system ensures the production of male and female gametes that combine to give rise to a new young one.

Biological System

Biological systems encompass the complex networks of living organisms, where various components work in harmony to maintain life. These systems range from cellular interactions to the coordination of organs, contributing to the overall functioning of an organism. The biological systems serve as a dynamic structure that adapts and responds to internal and external stimuli, ultimately ensuring the balance necessary for survival.

Also Read:

FAQs- What is Physiology?- Introduction to Human Physiology

1. What is a Simple Definition of Physiology?

The simple definition of physiology is the study of all the mechanisms and processes that are responsible for the functioning of the living organism. It is the scientific study of how the living system functions and maintains life.

2. What is a Study of Physiology?

The study of physiology deals with the understanding and exploration of living organisms their systems, mechanisms, and functioning. Physiology enables us to understand the systems that support life.

3. What is Human Physiology?

Human physiology is the specialized branch of physiology that deals with the study of the various processes and mechanisms of the human body. It helps us to understand how the human body functions and works for its survival.

4. Who is the Father of Human Physiology?

William Harvey, commonly acknowledged as the “Father of Human Physiology,” made significant contributions in the 17th century, particularly with his groundbreaking discoveries on blood circulation.

5. Why is Human Physiology Important?

The study of human physiology is important to help us understand health, the mechanism of disease and infection, medical diagnosis and treatment, public health, biomedical research, etc.



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