Core Concepts in Physiology
The core concepts in physiology were present in a poster session at EB 2011 and was published in Advances in Physiology Education in Dec 2011, The Core Principles (Big Ideas) of Physiology: Results of Faculty Surveys, by two team members (Michael & McFarland, 2011). The fifteen core concepts below are listed in order of importance to the physiology faculty the responded to our surveys (there was a tie between numbers one and two).
Fifteen core principles
Proposed by approximately 70 physiology faculty respondents
- Homeostasis The internal environment of the organism is actively maintained constant by the function of cells, tissues, and organs organized in negative feedback systems.
- Cell membrane Plasma membranes are complex structures that determine what substances enter leave the cell. They are essential for cell signaling, transport, & other processes.
- Cell-cell communications The function of the organism requires that cells pass information to one another to coordinate their activities. These processes include endocrine and neural signaling.
- Interdependence Cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems interact with one another (are dependent on the function of one another) to sustain life.
- Flow down gradients The transport of "stuff" (ions, molecules, blood, air) is a central process at all levels of organization in the organism and this transport is described by a simple model.
- Energy The life of the organism requires the constant expenditure of energy. The acquisition, transformation & transportation of energy is a crucial function of the body.
- Structure/function The function of a cell, tissue or organ is determined by its form. Structure and function (from the molecular level to the organ system level) are intrinsically related to each other.
- Scientific reasoning Physiology is a science. Our understanding of the functions of the body arises from the application of the scientific method, thus our understanding is always tentative.
- Cell theory All cells making up the organism have the same DNA. Cells have many common functions, but also many specialized functions that are required by the organism.
- Physics/chemistry The functions of living organisms are explainable by the application of the laws of physics and chemistry.
- Genes to proteins The genes (DNA) of every organism code for the synthesis of proteins (including enzymes). The functions of every cell are determined by the genes that are expressed.
- Levels of organization Understanding physiological functions requires understanding the behavior at every level of organization from the molecular to the social.
- Mass balance The contents of any system or compartment in a system is determined by the inputs to and the outputs from that system or compartment.
- Causality Living organisms are causal mechanisms (machines) whose functions are explainable by a description of the cause-and-effect relationships that are present.
- Evolution The mechanisms of evolution act at many levels of organization and result in adaptive changes that have produced the extant relationships between structure and function.