An Introduction to Human Anatomy and Physiology

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What is Cytology?

Cytology is the study of the internal structure and function of individual cells.

What is Histology?

Histology is the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.

What is Anatomy?

Anatomy is the study of the structure and relationship between body parts. There are several sub-disciplines within anatomy:

Surface Anatomy

Surface anatomy is the study of the external features of the body.

Regional Anatomy

Regional anatomy is the study of anatomy based on regions of the body. It involves the study of the superficial and internal features in a specific area of the body.

Pathological Anatomy

Pathological anatomy is the medical specialty concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the gross and microscopic examination of tissues.

What is Physiology?

Physiology is the study of the function of body parts and the body as a whole.

Systemic Physiology

Systemic physiology is the study of the function of the body's systems. For example, cardiovascular physiology focuses on the heart and blood vessels.

Organ Systems

Which organ system transports nutrients, metabolic waste, gases, and defense cells? The Cardiovascular system.

Anatomical Terms

Dorsal Recumbent Position

Someone lying on the bed observing the ceiling is in the dorsal recumbent position.

Prone Position

The prone position describes a body position in which one lies flat with the chest down and the back up.

Body Cavities

A body cavity is any fluid-filled space in a multicellular organism other than those of vessels.

Functions of Body Cavities

The two essential functions of body cavities are:

  1. They protect delicate organs, such as the brain and spinal cord, from accidental shocks and cushion them from the bumps and movements that occur when we walk, jump, or run.
  2. They permit significant changes in the size and shape of internal organs.

Major Body Cavities

The two major cavities are the dorsal and ventral cavities. The ventral body cavities are also known as the coelom.

Thoracic Cavity

The thoracic cavity contains the heart, aorta, lungs, esophagus, trachea, and bronchi. It is separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm.

Abdominal Cavity

The abdominal cavity contains the stomach, small intestine, most of the large intestine, appendix, liver, kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Pelvic Cavity

The pelvic cavity contains the urinary bladder, reproductive organs, and part of the large intestine.

Serous Membranes

Serous membranes line and enclose several body cavities, providing lubrication and reducing friction between organs.

Visceral Pericardium

The serous membrane that covers the heart is called the visceral pericardium.

Visceral Peritoneum

The serous membrane that covers the abdominal organs is called the visceral peritoneum.


The serous membrane covering the intestines is called the peritoneum.


The mediastinum is a membranous partition between the lungs. It contains the heart, thymus gland, and connective tissue.


The diaphragm is a muscular partition that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity.

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