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Physiology, Basic Concepts


Admission requirements

General knowledge of the English language, biology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry as required for students to be accepted for Biomedical Sciences.


The course Physiology, Basic Concepts, consists of five themes.

Theme 1. Cardiovascular System – Heart – Electrical Function

  • anatomy of the heart with emphasis on its electrical properties

  • resting and action potential of the cardiac myocyte

  • impulse formation and conduction in the heart

  • genesis of the electrocardiogram (ECG)

  • ECG leads, lead systems and vectorcardiogram

  • the normal electrocardiogram (with practical)

  • genesis of cardiac arrhythmias

  • primary electrical disease (channelopathy)

Theme 2. Cardiovascular System – Heart – Mechanical Function

  • anatomy of the heart with emphasis on its mechanical function

  • contraction mechanism of the cardiac myocyte

  • excitation-contraction coupling

  • characterization of pump function (with working group)

Theme 3. Cardiovascular System – Circulation

  • macroscopic and microscopic anatomy of the circulation (with practical)

  • physical concepts (with working group)

  • arteries – capillaries – veins

  • neural control of the circulation

  • humoral control of the circulation and autoregulation

  • special circulations

  • exercise and orthostasis

  • physiology of heart failure

Theme 4. Respiratory System

  • anatomy of the lungs, with practical

  • gas transport in the lungs and in blood, with practical

  • ventilation-perfusion ratio

  • control of breathing, with practical and working group

Theme 5. Kidneys

  • anatomy of the kidneys, with practical

  • assessment of renal clearance and blood flow

  • regulation of glomular filtration rate and renal blood flow

  • tubular transport systems and functions

  • countercurrent multiplication, urine dilution an concentration

Course objectives

After having followed this course, the student can:

  • describe and define and the structure and functions of the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system and the kidneys;

  • relate the functions of these organs/organ-systems to the specific anatomical, mechanical and (with regard to the heart) electrical properties;

  • illustrate by clinical examples how several pathophysiologic conditions of these organs/organ-systems can be viewed from basic physiological principles.

Mode of instruction

Lectures (about 30), for every 2-3 lectures an interactive seminar, 6 practicals, 3 working groups, rehearsal exams.

Assessment method

Multiple choice exam, taken in two sessions (Part 1: Cardiovascular System; Part 2: Respiratory System & Kidneys).

Reading list

  • Moore KL et al, 2006 (5th Edition): Clinically oriented anatomy

  • Ross MH et al, 2006 (5th Edition): Histology, a text and atlas

  • Boron WF & Boulpaep EL, 2005 (Second Edition, 2009): Medical physiology: a cellular and molecular approach

  • Klabunde RE, 2005 (1st Edition): Cardiovascular physiology concepts

  • Malmivuo J & Plonsey R, 1993-2005: Bioelectromagnetism (on internet:

Information for exchange students

This module is part of an English taught semester of the bachelor’s programme in Biomedical Sciences at Leiden University Medical Center. Combining biomedical modules with modules from other programmes in Leiden is difficult or impossible due to different scheduling schemes. Exchange students with sufficient relevant background knowledge in biology/biomedicine are therefore encouraged and advised to choose the entire module package indicated below. This semester starts in week 36 and finishes at the end of week 3 of the following calendar year.

  • Immunology (BW), 8 EC

  • Pathogen-Host Interactions part 2, 3 EC

  • Infection and Immunity in Practice, 3 EC

  • Physiology, Basic Concepts, 8 EC

  • Physiology, Advanced Concepts, 3 EC

  • Communication in Science for Exchange students, 1 EC