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The part 1B Physiology course, in contrast to 1A Physiology of Organisms (PoO), is heavily focused on humans and no longer discusses plants. While lecture series are split by the different physiological systems, this 1B course is a fun and rewarding one, as you will find that by the end of the year, you are able to synthesise the different information to explain the physiological responses to different stresses, such as exercise, pregnancy, altitude, and extreme climates. As physiologists love their hormones, you will be introduced to quite a few hormones across the different physiological systems and how they are involved in different feedback and feedforward systems.   For the majority of Lent term, you will learn about reproductive physiology alongside the VetMeds. This part of the course covers a broad range of material not previously discussed in NST 1A. The 6 weeks of lectures starts by discussing sexual differentiation, which includes comparing and contrasting gametogenesis between the two sexes, as well as the menstrual and oestrous cycles in mammals. You will also learn about the earliest point of pregnancy following fertilisation, where embryogenesis and maternal recognition of pregnancy occurs, which is pivotal for a successful and sustained state of pregnancy. There maintains a strong emphasis on integrated physiology, where you learn about the physiological responses of the mother, foetus, and neonate to the different challenges they face, such as nutrition and hypoxia.   For almost all of the lecture series, you will be given access to complete and detailed notes, as well as the slides used during the lectures. They are usually made available before lectures, which take place at 9am on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I highly recommend taking this 1B course, not just for the fascinating content, but also for the very engaging lectures. You will have met most of the lecturers at some point in PoO and I assure you that they are as wonderful in 1B Physiology, if not better!   The lecture series titles are listed below:   Michaelmas
  • The Mammalian Cardiovascular System
  • Human Endocrinology
  • Respiratory Physiology
  • Human Renal Physiology
  • Physiology of pH Regulation
  • Blood, Lymph & Inflammation
  • Reproduction
  • Sexual Differentiation
  • Early Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy & The Foetus
  • Birth & Lactation
  • Neonatal Physiology
  • Digestive Physiology
  • Weight Regulation & Nutrition
  • Endurance Performance & Training
  • High Altitude Physiology
  • Physiology of Microgravity
  • Arctic & Desert Physiology


Supervisions are pretty standard. You go through content from the past week with your supervisor and perhaps discuss some essay plans. While contents from the lectures are mostly based on human physiology, you may be able to discuss animal physiology with your supervisor as well, which could be good additional information for your essays. For instance, my supervisor is a VetMed by training and actively works with horses, so we got lots of fun facts about horses and their unique reproductive physiology!  


There are two types of practicals in 1B Physiology – histology practicals and experimental physiology practicals.  
  • Experimental Physiology 
For the most part, the experimental physiology practicals (and PDN practicals by extension) are similar to those in 1A PoO. The practicals themselves are not graded, but are helpful tools to consolidate the content from the lectures. For example, we did some dissection work and studied the cardiovascular system in the frog, although we had some pretty anomalous data due to issues with the batch of frogs we got. Otherwise, we did not have many other opportunities to do dissection work and had to watch videos of the dissections instead, such as when studying the rabbit gut in Lent term.   There is also a 5-week long experiment on exercise physiology, where a test subject undergoes training for a few weeks, and you can witness the changes in stroke volume, cardiac output, respiratory quotient, etc. in response to the stresses from exercise! I would encourage you to volunteer for this experiment, as it is truly a fascinating experience to be able to quantify these physiological changes in your body.    
  • Histology
There are histology practical sessions for you to learn about the different physiological systems at the microscopic level. Most practical sessions are an opportunity for you to look under the microscope at different cell types and learn to identify the slides that you are looking at. You will be asked to identify different structures and cells in the practical exam. This includes microscopic images of the male and female reproductive systems, the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, renal system etc.  


Past papers (up until around 2004) are available on Moodle, although the format has changed a bit over the years. There are limited MCQ papers available, with no answers provided, so try and leave those until Easter term to fully utilise the resources. You may ask to discuss the questions during your supervision, or ask your supervisors to check the answers for you, if they are willing to do so!   Focus on first understanding each of the systems learned (in Michaelmas) and what they do. You will then be able to reason how each of the systems might respond in response to specific challenges, which is important for essays on integrated physiology.


There are 2 written papers for 1B Physiology. On the whole, you are expected to write 3 essays and 107 multiple-choice questions for exams. For a NST exam, this might sound straightforward enough to prepare for, but you need a thorough understanding of all the elements in the course to answer the questions confidently.   The 2022/23 format is as follows:   Paper 1 (3 hours)
  • Section A 20% of total marks for 1B Physiology 55 compulsory MCQs (1 mark each)
  • Section B Candidates should write 3 out of 6 essay questions The recommended time for this section is 2 hours
  Paper 2 (1 hour 40 minutes)
  • This is the practical paper which accounts for 30% of the total marks for 1B Physiology, consisting of 52 compulsory MCQs.
  • Section A: 42 MCQs on the histology and experimental practical components of the course (1 mark each)
  • Section B: 10 data-handling (3 marks each)

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