MEDSCI205

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF HUMAN ORGAN SYSTEMS

Course Breakdown

 

Test 1: 15%
Test 2: 10%
Laboratory reports: 20%
​Exam: 55%

Course Information

 

Recommended textbooks:

  • Medical Physiology (3rd ed.) – Walter Boron & Emile Boulpaep

  • Textbook of Medical Physiology (12th ed.) – Arthur Guyton & John Hall


Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

An essential paper for students enrolled in MEDSCI-dominant degrees, MEDSCI205 is a concept-oriented paper which expands on the basic physiological processes and anatomy covered in MEDSCI142. With an overarching theme of homeostasis, the course is structured to begin with basic homeostatic mechanisms, with said concepts being integrated into more complex topics, such as:

 

  • Renal Physiology

  • Cardiac Physiology

  • Energetics

  • Respiratory Physiology

  • Fetal Physiology

 

The course and lab manual were separated, with the course manual occasionally complementing the lecture content (although not extremely helpful, but slides were provided in this case). Whilst a challenging paper, do not be deterred by what the reviews have said about it as there are plenty of helpful resources to ensure you succeed in this course.

Lecture Content:

 

HOMEOSTATIC MECHANISMS & FLUID REGULATION:

Lecturer/s: Dr. Anuj Bhargava

The first three lectures were taught by the wonderful course co-ordinator, Dr. Anuj Bhargava. This section mainly built up on the fundamentals of the internal component of our bodies, along with further teaching related to cell volume regulation (think concepts related to osmolarity, osmolality, and tonicity). Whilst the premises of these lectures appear to be straightforward, it is the depth of the content covered that students struggle with. However, the material covered in 3 hours’ worth of lectures is optimal, and would be extremely helpful knowledge to retain prior to kidney lectures, and for the first lab and tutorial.

 

The final lecture covers Acid Base Physiology, which provides more insight on acid-base disturbances in the body (e.g acidosis, alkalosis and its different sub-categories) and how various pH systems within the body help to regulate and prevent the body from suffering acidic/alkali states. Most of the content covered in this particular section have been briefly covered in previous first year courses, so past year notes should be able to provide some foundation. Boron’s “Medical Physiology” builds on the knowledge taught in lectures, however is also an extremely useful resource to consult if you are unsure about the material overall.

 

Optional Content Review – These topics would be very helpful if you would like to refresh yourself by reviewing concepts:

  • BIOSCI107 – Paul Donaldson – Cellular Processes

  • BIOSCI107 – Anthony Phillips – Cells & Tissues (Lecture 2 – exclusively the components of a cell, not the histology aspect)

  • CHEM110 – Duncan McGillivray – Acids & Bases (Lectures 1-3)

  • MEDSCI142 – Angela Tsai and Carolyn Barrett – Renal Anatomy + Physiology

 

FLUID BALANCE & RENAL PHYSIOLOGY:

Lecturer/s: Dr. Rohit Ramchandra

 

In this lecture series covered by Dr. Rohit Ramchandra, the concepts and knowledge covered in MEDSCI142 (Renal Anatomy & Physiology) is expanded, but to a brief extent. 

 

Similar to MEDSCI142, the lectures begin with briefly discussing the anatomy of a kidney and then moving on to physiological processes of the kidney, and the factors affecting them. There is a particular focus on the Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR), and the counter-current system and the in/extrinsic mechanisms that can disturb it.

 

These concepts are integrated with a lecture outlining the renal response to salt and water absorption. For an A+ in his section, Rohit suggests further learning into the hormonal components of the renal system; that being aldosterone, ANP, and ADH. Further knowledge and successful integration of how these hormones respond and affect urine concentration, diabetes, and dehydration will be highly advantageous however this was not the case in 2018 or 2019, where hormone-related questions did not appear. Rohit did also provide hints for his exam section and how to achieve a top mark (HINT: diagrams, clear and succinct discussion regarding hormonal mechanism etc).

 

To ensure proper understanding of this section, expanding your learning through Guyton & Hall’s “Textbook of Medical Physiology” and drawing mind-maps in response to a homeostatic disturbance provides the opportunity to achieve higher understanding in the concepts covered in class. Focus on the main key players that control water balance – ADH, ANG2, Aldosterone, Renin, different areas of a nephron and you’ve pretty much grasped his section.

 

This section is where you will be introduced (briefly) to the Dive Reflex, and how components of the heart respond to prolonged immersion into water. This lecture will be extremely helpful for Lab 2, where theory is tested by voluntary immersion into cold, cold water. This topic will be further elaborated when covering Respiratory Physiology with Dr. Marie Ward.

 

Optional Content Review – These topics would be very helpful if you would like to refresh yourself by reviewing concepts:

  • MEDSCI142 – Angela Tsai and Carolyn Barrett – Renal Anatomy + Physiology

 

CARDIOVASCULAR PHYSIOLOGY:

Lecturer/s: Dr. Fiona McBryde, Dr. Carolyn Barrett

Arguably one of the more difficult topics in MEDSCI205, this section was a significant expansion to the cardiac physiology topics taught by Simon Malpas in MEDSCI142. Whilst some concepts seemed to be familiar (e.g action potential ionic currents, cardiac excitability, stroke volume and factors affecting it, cardiac output), some concepts caused students to struggle significantly, with the ECG lecture being the most notable example.

 

The ECG lecture is mentioned exclusively as many physics concepts are strongly integrated into this lecture (primarily electricity concepts) in a way that felt like a second language. You will also be introduced to Einthoven’s Triangle, which is an imaginary formation of three limb leads to calculate the mean axis of the ventricles. Unfortunately, since there is no extensive coverage about this topic in Boron or Guyton & Hall, various YouTube videos, Khanacademy, and ECG interpretation books are recommended for further assistance. There will be plenty of opportunities to learn the Einthoven’s triangle and apply your knowledge in the ECG Lab, so take the time and ask your lab demonstrators all the questions that you can to make sure you have the basics covered!

 

The second half of this lecture series primarily focuses on the vascular system and its involvement in various physiological mechanisms which ultimately regulates determinants such as stroke volume, blood pressure and cardiac output. There is a particular lecture that focuses on vascular mechanics, which is also similar to electricity concepts covered in physics. It may be a little difficult to grasp these concepts at first, but Carolyn Barrett covers the lecture quite slowly, so with some revision, the concepts become a little more….. bearable. Similar to most lecture series covered in this topic, Cardio Physiology is concluded by integrating the lecture content with some real life scenarios (e.g exercise, stress and para/sympathetic nervous activity, heart failure)

 

You should be able to understand the many factors that are responsible for controlling vessel diameter and pretty much everything involved in the arterial baroreflex pathway/chemoreceptor reflexes. Find a way to link the ECG diagram with the action potential graph, cardiac cycle, and heart sounds etc.; it’s hard, but it’s the only way to ace these concepts. Learn all the equations and understand what factors change these relationships, and how. Whilst a lengthy topic, it’s incredibly rewarding once you realize you’ve understood.

 

Optional Content Review – These topics would be very helpful if you would like to refresh yourself by reviewing concepts:

  • MEDSCI142 – Peter Riordan & Simon Malpas – Cardiovascular System (Anatomy & Physiology)

  • PHYSICS160 – Mark Conway – Electricity 

  • PHYSICS160 – Beau Pontre & Alistair Young – Medical Physics 

 

ENERGETICS:

Lecturer/s: Dr. David Crossman

In contrast to Cardiac Physiology, this may have been one of the easier topics taught due to constant exposure to some of the concepts covered in the lectures (e.g aerobic/anaerobic respiration, thermodynamics). The main points to pay attention to are the graphs that he shows (as there is a chance you may be required to draw and understand the components of the graph), and some of the processes involved in the various types of anaerobic and aerobic respiration.  

 

This topic is relatively straightforward in comparison to the other ones in this course. If you find yourself struggling to understand the concepts, it would be recommended to revise the thermodynamics topic covered in PHYSICS160, as energetics is basically an application of t thermodynamics. Brief revision in various biochemistry concepts (e.g Aerobic/Anaerobic respiration processes, ATP concepts). In the last lecture for this topic, energetic concepts are further examined in muscle fatigue and training, so knowing the anatomy of a myocyte (BIOSCI107) would be useful, but not essential.

 

Optional Content Review – These topics would be very helpful if you would like to refresh yourself by reviewing concepts:

  • BIOSCI106 – Relevant lectures covering topics in description

  • BIOSCI107 – Carolyn Barrett – ET:M Lecture 1-2: Skeletal Muscle

  • PHYSICS160 – Mark Conway – Thermodynamics

 

RESPIRATORY PHYSIOLOGY:

Lecturer/s: Dr. Marie Ward

This section was condensed from 6 lectures to 5 lectures, and was taught by Dr Marie Ward in 2019. She reads off her slides but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all as that means the majority of what she can and will test on is on her slides! It’s important to make sure that you do know all the jargon and symbols that she uses on her slides because it can be confusing if you don’t for the sake of your lab worksheet and in the exam. She also recommends John B West’s video material, which is essentially a mirrored version of her lecture content, but delivered differently so if you are struggling with her lecture style, John B West and his works (as well as his book) would be helpful (in complementary with additional youtube videos, and KhanAcademy).

 

If you do not have time to do so, then the textbook is always a good option as well. Having a basic understanding of the concepts and equations involved in this section will be advantageous for the lab worksheet, however as previously mentioned; do not fret if the material seems foreign to you. The last lecture is another application-based lecture, where she discusses respiratory responses when subjected to diving, altitude changes, and voluntary water immersion (sound familiar? Think back to ‘Dive Reflex’ discussed by Rohit Ramchandra in Renal Physiology). Make a cheat sheet to get used to the symbols and abbreviations if necessary, as it can be easy to fall behind!

 

Optional Content Review – These topics would be very helpful if you would like to refresh yourself by reviewing concepts:

  • MEDSCI142 – Sue McGlashan – Respiratory Anatomy

  • MEDSCI142 – Denis Loiselle (2018 and prev. years); Julian Paton (2019 onwards) – Respiratory Physiology

 

FETAL PHYSIOLOGY:     

Lecturer/s: Prof. Laura Bennet

The last 4 enjoyable lectures were by Dr Laura Bennet. This topic can be quite interesting and Laura Bennet is an engaging lecturer. She does not allow people to record her lectures and recordings will not be uploaded. She will post up slides with pretty much everything you need to know, but, remember to go to her lectures because that is when she’ll give out all the exam hints (including a great big hint about the essay on her section in 2019). It is difficult to score well in her essay as additional reading in other sources are recommended, but if you know how to integrate concepts concisely and thoroughly enjoyed the topic, then by all means, surprise her!

 

Laboratory Component:

 

This paper is infamous for its lab reports! Laboratory content strongly supported what was going on in the lectures, and the high demonstrator to student ratio was very beneficial.

 

The Lab Reports were time consuming to produce (done after lab), but writing the discussion part is good practice for the End of Year exam (where you’re required to produce 4 essays). Multiple lab report templates were provided and the tutorials given also assisted in understanding and presenting the contents.

 

A majority of the laboratory sessions required student participation where one student from each group were the test subjects, making the labs particularly engaging. There were 4 lab reports and 1 worksheet to complete; the topics included:

  • Dive Reflex Physiology

  • ECGs

  • Osmosis

  • Energy Expenditure

  • Respiratory Physiology

 

These labs were held in the Physiology labs on the 2nd floor directly above the Ground floor MDLs. For MEDSCI 205, you don't actually need to write the Introduction and the Methods, you only had to write up the Results, Discussion and Conclusion sections because they provided a template of the Introduction and Methods - which you could Copy + Paste from the MEDSCI 205 website.

 

But do actually read the introduction they provide - because it really helps guide how you want to write up the rest of the report. Labs are once every 2 weeks. On the other weeks, you have tutorials which go through a bit of theory and help you with the labs - if you had a draft of your lab report done, you could ask the tutor to check through it to help guide you on how to writing it better.

 

Labs will be tested in the final exam usually by 3-4 MCQs and usually a SAQ worth 5 marks. Special mention to referencing: yes, you do have to learn how to reference properly. It does take a while to get used to and once you're done with 205, you'll be great at using APA Style referencing. Try this link if you're having trouble with a certain reference. Try to avoid referencing Wikipedia directly as well.