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Glossary of Physiology Terms
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Definition:
Anterior pituitary gland

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Hypophysis
Neurohypophysis



Definition:
An early sexual maturation stage, occurring 1 or 2 years before the onset of puberty, during which the zona reticularis of the adrenal cortex releases increased levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione. These adrenal androgens are ultimately responsible for the appearance of pubic and axillary hair, increased oil production by facial skin, acne, and distinct adult body odor.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Menarche
Pubarche
Thelarche



Definition:
Moving along an axon away from the neuronal cell body toward the axon terminal.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Retrograde



Definition:
Refers to the concentration gradient of an ion or molecule. The concentration gradient may exist across a biological membrane, where the concentration is higher on one side of the membrane compared to the other side. Concentration gradient may also exist in a solution without an apparent barrier separating the area of higher concentration from the area of lower concentration. In both cases, the free energy that results from the concentration difference drives the movement of the ion/molcule from the area of higher concentration to the area of lower concentration. In free solution, the ion/molecule simply diffuses down its gradient. Movement across a biological membrane is more complicated and is a function of lipid solubility of the ion/molecule as well as the presence of channels or transport proteins that can allow the ion/molecule to cross the membrane (see Lipid Bilayer Permeability and Summary of Membrane Transport Processes).

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Electrical gradient
Electrochemical gradient



Definition:
In biological solutions, electrical gradient refers to the electrical potential that acts on an ion to drive the movement of the ion in one or another direction (see Resting Membrane Potential - Establishment of the Membrane Potential).

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Chemical gradient
Electrochemical gradient



Definition:
Refers to the balance of chemical and electrical gradients that act on an ion, particularly as it relates to the movement of an ion across a biological membrane (see Resting Membrane Potential - Establishment of the Membrane Potential and Resting Membrane Potential - Nernst Equilibrium Potential).

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Chemical gradient
Electrical gradient



Definition:
Electrochemical gradient

See:
Electrochemical gradient



Definition:
Endocrine cell of the anterior pituitary gland responsible for synthesizing and releasing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).



Definition:
Refers to synaptic or receptor potentials that can vary in amplitude and direction. Graded potentials can be depolarizing or hyperpolarizing and do not have a threshold.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Action potential

See also:
Neuronal Action Potential - Introduction
Neuronal Action Potential - Graded Potentials versus Action Potentials



Definition:
Moving from the axon terminal back toward the neuronal cell body.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Anterograde



Definition:
An inhibitor of the Na+/K+/ATPase (i.e., sodium pump). The form commonly used for this purpose is sodium orthovanadate.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Ouabain



Definition:
The absolute refractory period refers to a period during the action potential. This is the time during which another stimulus given to the neuron (no matter how strong) will not lead to a second action potential. The absolute refractory period starts immediately after the initiation of the action potential and lasts until after the peak of the action potential. Following this period, the relative refractory period begins.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Relative refractory period

See also:
Neuronal Action Potential - Refractory Periods



Definition:
An enzyme found in the synaptic cleft at cholinergic synapses. It degrades acetylcholine to choline and acetate and, thus, terminates the action of acetylcholine at the synapse. Neither choline nor acetate can bind to acetylcholine receptors (nicotinic or muscarinic).



Definition:
The action potential is a rapid and reversible reversal of the electrical potential difference across the plasma membrane of excitable cells such as neurons, muscle cells and some endocrine cells. In a neuronal action potential, the membrane potential rapidly changes from its resting level of approximately -70 mV to around +50 mV and, subsequently, rapidly returns to the resting level again. The neuronal action potential forms an important basis for information processing, propagation, and transmission. In muscle cells, the action potential precedes, and is necessary to bring about, muscle contraction. Some endocrine cells also exhibit action potentials, where the excitation leads to hormone secretion.

The action potential is also referred to as the electrical impulse or nervous impulse.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Graded potential

See also:
Neuronal Action Potential



Definition:
Leading toward a region or structure of interest.

In the nervous system, afferent fibers (i.e., neurons) transmit information from a peripheral receptor to the spinal cord or the brainstem. Afferent neurons are also referred to as sensory neurons.

In the kidneys, the afferent arteriole carries blood to the glomerular capillaries.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Efferent



Definition:
Without a nucleus. In particular, it refers to a cell that lacks a nucleus. For example, prokaryotic cells are anucleate. In addition, red blood cells (erythrocytes) are anucleate.



Abbreviation:
CO

Definition:
Cardiac output is defined as the volume of blood pumped every minute by each (left or right) ventricle of the heart. It is generally reported in L/min or mL/min.

Cardiac output (CO) is the product of heart rate (HR) and stroke volume (SV). Thus,

CO = HR × SV

Heart rate is defined as the number of heart contractions per minute. Stroke volume is the volume of blood pumped per ventricular contraction.

For a typical resting adult human being at rest, CO is approximately 5 L/min.

CO = 70 contractions/min × 70 mL/contraction = 4,900 mL/min



Definition:
Endocrine cell of the anterior pituitary gland responsible for synthesizing and releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).



Definition:
A type of secondary active transport across a biological membrane in which a transport protein couples the movement of an ion (usually Na+ or H+) down its electrochemical gradient to the movement of another ion or molecule against a concentration or electrochemical gradient. The ion moving down its electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driving ion. The ion/molecule being transported against a chemical or electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driven ion/molecule.

In cotransport, the direction of transport is the same for both the driving ion and driven ion/molecule (into the cell or out of the cell).

An example is the Na+/glucose cotransporter (SGLT), which couples the movement of Na+ into the cell down its electrochemical gradient to the movement of glucose into the cell against its concentration gradient.

Cotransport is also commonly referred to as symport.

Transport proteins that are involved in this type of transport are referred to as cotransporters or symporters.

See:
Symport

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Secondary active transport
Exchange

See also:
Lecture notes on Secondary Active Transport



Definition:
A potent blocker of nicotinic cholinergic receptors (nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, nAChR) found at the neuromuscular junction. At small doses, curare can lead to muscle weakness. At high doses, curare can lead to paralysis of skeletal muscles, which would also result in asphyxiation (and ultimately death) due to paralysis of the diaphragm. Curare was commonly the active agent of poison arrow.

Other resources:
See Wikipedia



Definition:
The first region (i.e., most proximal region) of the small intestine. Chyme leaving the stomach (through the pyloric valve) first enters the duodenum. The contents of the duodenum empty into the jejunum (middle region of the small intestine). In adult humans, the duodenum is about 25-38 cm (10-15 inches) long.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Jejunum
Ileum



Definition:
Accumulation of fluid in the interstitial compartment, which usually leads to a visible swelling of the affected tissue.



Definition:
Leading away from a region or structure of interest.

In the nervous system, efferent fibers (i.e., neurons) transmit information from the central nervous system to peripheral effector organs (i.e., muscles or glands). Therefore, the cells bodies of efferent neurons reside within the central nervous system, whereas their axonal projections exit the central nervous system to make synaptic contact with effector organs in the periphery. Efferent neurons are also referred to as motor neurons.

In the kidneys, the efferent arteriole carries blood away from the glomerular capillaries.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Afferent



Abbreviation:
VDF

Definition:
When an ion is not at its electrochemical equilibrium, an electrochemical driving force (VDF) acts on the ion, causing the net movement of the ion across the membrane down its own electrochemical gradient.

The electrochemical driving force is generally expressed in millivolts and is calculated according the following equation:

VDF = VmVeq

where VDF is the electrochemical driving force, Vm is the membrane potential, and Veq is the equilibrium potential.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Membrane potential
Equilibrium potential
Electrochemical gradient

See also:
Resting Membrane Potential - Electrochemical Driving Force Acting on Ions
Electrochemical Driving Force Calculator






Definition:
Electrogenic pumps are primary active transporters that hydrolyze ATP and use the energy released from ATP hydrolysis to transport ions across biological membranes leading to the translocation of net charge across the membrane.

For example, the Na+/K+ ATPase (sodium pump) is an electrogenic pump because during every transport cycle, it transports 3 Na+ ions out of the cell and 2 K+ ions into the cell. This leads to the movement of one net positive charge out of the cell making this process electrogenic.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Electrogenic



Definition:
An electrogenic transport process is one that leads to the translocation of net charge across the membrane. For example, ion channels such as Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Cl channels are electrogenic.

The Na+/K+ ATPase is electrogenic because for every ATP molecule hydrolyzed, 3 Na+ ions are transported out of the cell and 2 K+ ions are transported into the cell (leading to the translocation of one net positive charge out of the cell).

Many secondary active transporters are also electrogenic. For example, the Na+/glucose cotransporter (found in the small intestine and kidney proximal tubules), transports 2 Na+ ions and 1 glucose molecule into the cell across the plasma membrane (leading to the translocation of two net positive charges into the cell per transport cycle).



Definition:
A type of secondary active transport across a biological membrane in which a transport protein couples the movement of an ion (usually Na+ or H+) down its electrochemical gradient to the movement of another ion or molecule against a concentration or electrochemical gradient. The ion moving down its electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driving ion. The ion/molecule being transported against a chemical or electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driven ion/molecule.

In exchange, the driving ion and the driven ion/molecule are transported across the biological membrane in opposite directions.

An example is the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX), which couples the movement of 3 Na+ ions into the cell down its electrochemical gradient to the movement of 1 Ca2+ ion out of the cell against its electrochemical gradient.

Exchange is also commonly referred to as antiport.

Transport proteins that are involved in this type of transport are referred to as exchangers or antiporters.

See:
Antiport

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Secondary active transport
Cotransport

See also:
Lecture notes on Secondary Active Transport



Definition:
Facilitated diffusion (or facilitated transport) is a form of passive transport across biological membranes and refers to carrier-mediated transport of molecules/ions down a concentration gradient. Facilitated transport is mediated by facilitative transporters (also referred to as uniporters).

See also:
Facilitated Diffusion



Definition:
Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused most commonly by iodine deficiency in the diet. Iodine deficiency leads to low levels of thyroid hormone production, and a reduction in thyroid hormone negative feedback on the hypothalamus and the anterior pituitary leads to a compensatory rise in the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Enlargement of the thyroid gland is, therefore, caused by abnormally high circulating levels of TSH, which has a strong trophic effect on the thyroid gland.



Definition:
Bad, unpleasant, or offensive breath.



Definition:
The Hodgkin cycle represents a positive feedback loop in neurons, where an initial membrane depolarization from the resting value (∼ −70 mV) to the threshold value (∼ −50 mV) leads to rapid depolarization of the membrane potential to approach the equilibrium potential for Na+ (VNa ≈ +60 mV). The voltage-gated Na+ channels of neurons are responsible for the Hodgkin cycle.

See the figure depicting the Hodgkin cycle.

See also:
Important Features of the Neuronal Action Potential



Definition:
An increase in the size of a cell such as muscle. It is generally brought about through the addition of cellular components.

It also refers to an enlargement of an organ or body part due to an increase in the size of the cells within the organ or body part.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Hyperplasia



Definition:
Hypothyroidism refers to a pathophysiological condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormones (underactive thyroid), leading to abnormally low levels of the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4).

The symptoms of hypothyroidism may include reduced metabolic rate, chronic fatigue, weight gain, myxedema, and depression.

Three main forms of hypothyroidism exist: (1) Primary hypothyroidism, (2) Secondary hypothyroidism, and (3) Tertiary hypothyroidism.

In primary hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland itself is incapable of producing normal levels of the thyroid hormones.

Secondary hypothyroidism is caused by low levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH, produced by the anterior pituitary gland, is required to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones.

Tertiary hypothyroidism is caused by low levels of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH). TRH, produced by the hypothalamus, is required to stimulate the anterior pituitary gland to produce TSH which, in turn, is required to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Primary hypothyroidism
Secondary hypothyroidism
Tertiary hypothyroidism

Hyperthyroidism
Euthyroidism



Definition:
The last region (i.e., most distal region) of the small intestine. Ileum receives the contents of the jejunum and, in turn, the contents of ileum leave the small intestine by emptying into the cecum. In adult humans, the ileum is about 2-4 meters (about 6.5-13 feet) long.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Duodenum
Jejunum



Definition:
Refers to the ability of the thyroid gland to accumulate iodide (I) against a steep electrochemical gradient. While the iodide concentration in plasma and interstitial fluid is approximately 300 nL, iodide concentration in the cytoplasm of thyroid follicular cells, as well as the lumen of thyroid follicles can be many folds higher. The protein that enables iodide transport into the thyroid gland against an electrochemical gradient is the Na+/iodide symporter (NIS), which is located in the basolateral membrane of thyroid follicular cells. Within the lumen of thyroid follicles, iodide is incorporated into the tyrosine residues of thyroglobulin during thyroid hormone biosynthesis, hence, allowing very high iodide concentrations in the colloid.



Definition:
The middle region of the small intestine between the duodenum and the ileum. The jejunum receives the contents of the duodenum and, in turn, its contents empty into the ileum. In adult humans, the jejunum is about 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) long.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Duodenum
Ileum



Definition:
The tapping sounds heard through a stethoscope placed over a partially compressed peripheral artery.

For the purpose of non-invasive blood pressure measurements, the stethoscope is usually placed on the skin overlying the brachial artery just distal to an inflated pressure cuff wrapped around the upper arm. As the pressure cuff is gradually deflated, the Korotkoff sounds result from the pulsations of the blood through the partially constricted brachial artery. With each ventricular systole, blood is forced to flow through the partially constricted brachial artery, and the turbulence in blood flow leads to the generation of the Korotkoff sounds. When the pressure cuff is fully deflated, flow through the artery resumes its normal laminar flow and, at that time, the Korotkoff sounds disappear.



Definition:
A condition associated with hypothyroidism (especially primary hypothyroidism) in adults. It is characterized by thick, course skin, skin swelling (edema), and decreased metabolic rate and mental activity.



Definition:
An equation used to calculate the equilibrium potential (Veq.) of an ion. The equilibrium potential for an ion is also referred to as the Nernst potential for that ion. It is the membrane potential at which no net movement of the ion in question occurs across the membrane.

General form of the Nernst equation

where Veq. is the equilibrium potential, R is the universal gas constant, T is the temperature in Kelvin, z is the valence of the ionic species, F is the Faraday's constant, and [X]o and [X]i are the extracellular and intracellular, respectively, concentrations of the ion in question.

See also:
Resting Membrane Potential - Nernst Equilibrium Potential
Derivation of the Nernst Equation



Definition:
Neurotoxins are chemical molecules that have an adverse effect on neuron function and, thus, disrupt the normal function of the nervous system. Neurotoxins could be small molecules or peptides and can be derived from a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate animals, as well as plant species.

The following is a short list of some examples of neurotoxins:

α-Bungarotoxin: A peptide neurotoxin that inhibits the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

Chlorotoxin: A peptide neurotoxin that inhibits chloride channels.

α-Conotoxin: A peptide neurotoxin that inhibits the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

δ-Conotoxin: A peptide neurotoxin that inhibits voltage-gated sodium channels.

w-Conotoxin: A peptide neurotoxin that inhibits N-type voltage-gated calcium channels.

Picrotoxin: Inhibits GABAA receptor chloride channels.

Tetrodotoxin: Inhibitor of neuronal voltage-gated sodium channels.



Definition:
Physiology is the study of how living systems function. The scope of physiological studies ranges from the subcellular level (molecules and organelles) all the way to the level of the whole organism and how organisms adapt to vastly different environmental conditions such as hot, cold, dry, humid, or high altitude.

See also:
What is Physiology?



Definition:
Plasma is the fluid portion of whole blood, which makes up about 40% to 60% of the total volume of whole blood. Plasma has a light yellow color and is generally obtained by separating the fluid portion from the blood formed elements through sedimentation or centrifugation. Plasma contains mostly water and, in addition, minerals, nutrients, proteins, hormones, and gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide). Unlike serum, in which fibrinogen and other clotting factors have been removed by coagulation, fibrinogen and other clotting factors remain present in plasma.

Plasma is one the main fluid compartments of the human body, making up nearly 10% of the total volume of body fluids. Plasma makes up the intravascular fluid compartment; itself a subcompartment of the extracellular fluid compartment.



Definition:
Gradual hearing loss associated with aging.



Definition:
Primary hypothyroidism is characterized by abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) production, where the defect is at the level of the thyroid gland itself.

In primary hypothyroidism, the circulating levels of the thyroid hormones are low, however, the levels of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) are high due a lack of thyroid hormone negative feedback on the anterior pituitary.

Common causes of primary hypothyroidism include iodine deficiency (which leads to goiter), and Hashimoto's disease, in which autoimmune antibodies destroy the ability of the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Hypothyroidism
Secondary hypothyroidism
Tertiary hypothyroidism



Definition:
Secondary active transport is a type of active transport across a biological membrane in which a transport protein couples the movement of an ion (typically Na+ or H+) down its electrochemical gradient to the movement of another ion or molecule against a concentration or electrochemical gradient. The ion moving down its electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driving ion. The ion/molecule being transported against a chemical or electrochemical gradient is referred to as the driven ion/molecule.

This transport process is referred to as active transport because the driven ion/molecule is transported against a concentration or electrochemical gradient. It is referred to as secondary active transport because no ATP hydrolysis is involved in this process (as opposed to primary active transport). The energy required to drive transport resides in the transmembrane electrochemical gradient of the driving ion.

Secondary active transport is also referred to as ion-coupled transport. Those utilizing Na+ as the driving ion are called Na+-coupled transporters. Those utilizing H+ as the driving ion are called H+-coupled transporters.

Two types of secondary active transport exist: cotransport (also known as symport) and exchange (also known as antiport). Na+/glucose cotransporter and H+/dipeptide cotransporter are examples of cotransporters. Na+/Ca2+ exchanger and Na+/H+ exchanger are examples of exchangers.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Cotransport
Symport
Exchange
Antiport

See also:
Lecture notes on Secondary Active Transport



Definition:
Secondary hypothyroidism is characterized by abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) production, where the defect is at the level of the anterior pituitary gland.

In secondary hypothyroidism, the anterior pituitary gland is unable to produce sufficient levels of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which, in turn, leads to insufficient stimulation of the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4).

Thus, in secondary hypothyroidism, the circulating levels of both TSH and the thyroid hormones (T3, and T4) are abnormally low

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Hypothyroidism
Primary hypothyroidism
Tertiary hypothyroidism



Definition:
Sub-threshold (or subthreshold) refers to a stimulus that is too small in magnitude to produce an action potential in excitable cells.

In general, a sub-threshold stimulus leads to the depolarization of the membrane, but the magnitude of the depolarization is not large enough to reach the threshold voltage. Therefore, sub-threshold stimuli do not elicit action potentials.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Threshold
Supra-threshold

See also:
Neuronal Action Potential - Introduction



Definition:
Supra-threshold (or suprathreshold) refers to a stimulus that is large enough in magnitude to produce an action potential in excitable cells.

In general, a supra-threshold stimulus leads to the depolarization of the membrane, and the magnitude of the depolarization is larger than that necessary to simply reach the threshold voltage. Therefore, supra-threshold stimuli elicit action potentials.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Threshold
Sub-threshold

See also:
Neuronal Action Potential - Introduction



Definition:
Synaptic pathology. Any pathophysiological condition that leads to abnormal function of synapses within the nervous system. The pathology may be due to pre-synaptic and/or post-synaptic mechanisms, or may involve glial cells surrounding synapses.



Definition:
Tachyphylaxis describes a condition where a person (or animal subject) develops rapid tolerance to a drug following a single or repeated administration of the drug. Therefore, higher doses of the drug may be needed to achieve the same response.



Definition:
Tertiary hypothyroidism is characterized by abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone (T3 and T4) production, where the defect is at the level of the hypothalamus.

In tertiary hypothyroidism, the hypothalamus is unable to produce sufficient levels of thyrotropin release hormone (TRH). Low TRH levels lead to low production of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) by the anterior pituitary gland which, in turn, leads to insufficient stimulation of the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4).

Thus, in tertiary hypothyroidism, the circulating levels of TRH, TSH, T3, and T4 are all abnormally low.

Related glossary terms/phrases:
Hypothyroidism
Primary hypothyroidism
Secondary hypothyroidism



Definition:
The part of the embryonic gonad that develops into the male reproductive ducts (epididymis, vas deferens, and seminal vesicles). In the female, this structure disappears because of the absence of anti-Müllerian hormone secreted by the Sertoli cells.



Definition:
The Z disk (or Z line) defines the boundaries of a muscle sarcomere. Two adjacent Z disks along the myofibril mark the boundaries of a single sarcomere. The Z disks are the attachment sites for the thin filaments. Therefore, from each Z disk, thin filaments extend to two neighboring sarcomeres. When a muscle fiber contracts, the Z disks of a sarcomere move closer together (i.e., the sarcomere also shortens).

Related glossary terms/phrases:
A band
H zone
I band
M line









Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013
Last updated: Friday, August 28, 2015