For students

Basic knowledge about Anatomy and Physiology

•   The study of anatomy and physiology will familiarize you with the structures and functions of the human body.
•   Most terms used in anatomy and physiology stem from Greek words because the Greeks were among the first to study this subject 2000 years ago. Learning the roots of these words will help you understand many scientific terms without having to look them up.

•   Anatomy describes the structures of the body — their scientific names,composition, location, and associated structures. Anatomy (“a cutting open”) is a plan or map of the body.
•   Physiology studies the function of each structure, individually and in combination with other structures (-ology = “the study of”).
•   Anatomy and physiology always work together. As we examine each part of the body, always consider both its structure and its function.

•   The study of anatomy is divided into 2 major fields:
1.  Gross anatomy is the study of large visible structures
2.  Microscopic anatomy is the study of structures that are too small to see, such as cells and molecules.
•   Gross anatomy, also called macroscopic anatomy, is separated into 5 major divisions:
1.  Surface anatomy describes surface forms and marks.

2.  Regional anatomy describes the organization of specific areas of the body.
3.  Systemic anatomy describes groups of organs that function together for a single purpose.
4.  Developmental anatomy describes the structural changes in an organism from fertilized egg to maturity.  Embryology is the anatomical study of early development.
5.  Clinical anatomy describes various medical specialties, including medical anatomy  (changes that occur during illness), and radiographic anatomy

•   Microscopic anatomy is divided into two major divisions:
1.  Cytology, the study of cells and their structures.
2.  Histology, the study of tissues and their structures.

•   Physiology has many specialties. The 4 basic divisions are:
1.  Cell physiology, including chemical and molecular processes within and between cells.
2.  Special physiology, the study of specific organs such as the heart.
3.  Systemic physiology, the cooperative functions of all the organs in an organ system.
4.  Pathological physiology, the effects of diseases on organs and organ systems.

Levels of Organization

•   Our bodies are organized at many different levels.

•   The levels of organization of living things, from smallest to largest, are:
1.  Atoms, the smallest functional units of matter.
2.  Molecules, active chemicals.
3.  Organelles, specialized structures within a cell.
4.  Cells, the smallest living units.
5.  Tissues, a group of similar cells that work together.
6.  Organs, two or more tissue types working together.
7.  Organ systems, two or more organs working together.
8.  Organism, a single individual, including all of the above.

•   The human body is divided into 11 interconnected organ systems. All organ systems work together, and many organs function in more than 1 organ system.


•   The foundation of all physiology is homeostasis (“staying the same”). When the body does not function within its normal range, organ systems malfunction, resulting in disease.
•   As our internal and external environment changes, physiological systems work together to maintain a stable internal environment, the condition of homeostasis. For example, systems monitor and adjust the volume and composition of body fluids, and keep body temperature within normal limits.

•   A homeostatic regulatory mechanism consists of 3 parts:
1.  Receptors, sensors that respond to a stimulus.
2.  The control center, receives information from sensors and sends out commands.
3.  Effectors, the cell or organ that responds to the control center.

•   When the response of an effector opposes the original stimulus, that is called negative feedback because it negates the stimulus.

•   An example of negative feedback is the temperature thermostat in your home.
•   Temperature sensors turn the air conditioner off and on to maintain air temperature within a specific, limited range.
•   In the same way, the brain controls normal body-temperature homeostasis by negative feedback.
•   When body temperature is too high or too low, the control center instructs an effector to oppose the effects of the stimulus by increasing or decreasing blood flow and sweat production.
•   In the opposite response, positive feedback, the effector adds to the initial stimulus instead of negating it, speeding up the  process.
•   Positive feedback  examples include, blood clotting (a little clotting provokes more clotting) and the birthing process (contractions get closer)

•   The body is constantly working, changing and responding to stimuli, a state of dynamic equilibrium.
•   All body systems must work together (systems integration) to maintain homeostasis.

Anatomical Studies

•   Anatomical descriptions refer to standard anatomical position: standing with the hands at the sides, palms facing forward, feet together.
•   Anatomical directions refer to the patient’s left or right.
•   Each direction is paired with an opposite; caudal is the opposite of cranial, anterior is the opposite of posterior.
•   A lateral view is from the side. An anterior view is from the front.
•   An area may be nearer to (proximal) or farther away from (distal) the medial or central region of the body.
•   Moving from exterior references to the internal organs requires a 3-dimensional description, imagined as an axis or plane cut through the body.
•   A specific slice along these planes is called a section.
•   The 3 sectional planes are:
1.  Sagittal plane (the length of the body, front to back), including the midsagittal or median section and left or right parasagittal sections.
2.  Frontal plane (the length of the body, side to side), also called coronal plane, resulting in anterior and posterior portions.
3.  Transverse plane (at right angles to the sagittal and frontal planes), also called a transverse section or cross section, resulting in inferior and superior portions.

Body Cavities and Serous Membranes

•   Internal compartments called body cavities protect internal organs, hold them in place, and allow them to change size and shape. All the internal organs found within these cavities are called viscera.
•   Moist layers of connective tissue called serous membrane cover both the walls of internal cavities (parietal layer) and the visceral organs themselves (visceral layer), providing a double layer of membrane between an organ and its surroundings. Serous membrane contains a watery lubricant that reduces friction, allowing organs to expand and contract freely.

•   The ventral body cavity (coelom) is divided by the diaphragm muscle into 2 parts:
1. A superior thoracic cavity, containing the
(a) pleural cavity (left and right, divided by the mediastinum) organs: lungs
membranes: visceral and parietal pleura
(b) pericardial cavity
organs: heart
membranes: visceral and parietal pericardium
2. and an inferior abdominopelvic cavity, containing the
(a) peritoneal cavity
membranes: visceral and parietal peritoneum
(b) abdominal cavity (superior peritoneal)
organs: liver, stomach, spleen, intestine
(c) pelvic cavity (inferior peritoneal)
organs: intestine, bladder, reproductive organs