You probably have a general understanding of how your body works. But do you fully comprehend how all of the intricate functions and systems of the human body work together to keep you healthy? This course will provide that insight. By approaching the study of the body in an organized way, you will be able to connect what you learn about anatomy and physiology to what you already know about your own body.

Anatomy and physiology, although similar in some ways, offer two distinct approaches to studying a living organism. While studying anatomy, you focus on the structure of living organisms by looking at the components of an organism’s biological systems as well as the structure of the organs and tissues that make up their biological systems. On the other hand, your studies in physiology center on the function of cells, organs, and tissues, and how they work together in the body. These topics can be studied simultaneously in one course, but each science has specializations at different levels.



Anatomy is the area of science that deals with the structure of a life form, also called an organism. This includes its external appearance and features as well as its internal ones. Simply put, the study of anatomy is the study of an organism’s form and parts. Dissecting the term itself reveals the origins of its parts. The first part, ana-, means “up” in Greek. The second part of the word, -tomy, means “a cutting.” The word anatomy literally refers to the dissection or “cutting up” of an organism.

Anatomy is a natural science dealing with the structural organization of all living things. You will often encounter a course in gross anatomy as part of a medical school program. During such a course, you are required to attend lectures as well as participate in dissection laboratory sessions, which provide you with hands-on exposure to various biological systems and organs. Specific topics you might be introduced to include the structure of the musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory, immune, respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems. You might also look at anatomy on a microscopic level, examining the structure of organs and tissues via their cells.



Physiology gives function to anatomy’s form. Physiology is the study of how the various parts of the body work together. This includes the molecules, cells, organs, muscles and all of their chemical processes and functions. For example, you might study anatomy and learn about the structure of the heart and circulatory system and then study physiology to learn about how the heart pumps blood around the body. The origin of the word physiology is the Greek physio- or “nature” plus -logia, which means “study.”

Much like anatomy, physiology is concerned with the principal organ systems, such as the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. However, when studying physiology, you will be looking at the functions of cells and organs within their biological systems, rather than their structures. You could study physiology on a broad level, such as the physiology of mammals, during which you would study the manner in which organs function in the body of a mammal as a whole. You might also study with a narrower focus, such as the physiology of the cardiovascular system. For example, during this course, you might take a look at how the heart performs its particular function.

At colleges and universities, anatomy and physiology are often combined into one course. This is because they are branches of the study of biology that are closely related. When using the two terms together, you could say that anatomy is the study of the parts of the body, and physiology is the study of how those parts work together.