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Congratulations on your decision to study human anatomy and physiology. The knowledge you gain from your study is of value in many aspects of your life.
Begin with the most obvious: the social value of this knowledge. Human anatomy and physiology is always a suitable topic of discussion in social situations because it allows people to talk about their favorite subject (themselves) in a not-too-personal way. Thus, some particularly interesting detail of anatomy and physiology is an ideal conversation opener with attractive strangers or horrifying shirt-tail relatives. (First, though, be completely clear in your mind about the boundary between scientific anatomy and physiology on the one hand and personal clinical details on the other.) Choose the specific topic carefully to be sure of having your intended effect. For example, telling a young boy that he has the same density of hair follicles on his body as a chimp does will probably please him. Telling his teenage sister the same thing may alienate her. Use this power carefully!
A little background in anatomy and physiology should be considered a valuable part of anyone’s education. Health and medical matters are part of world events and people’s daily lives. Basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology gets you started when trying to make sense of the news about epidemics, novel drugs and medical devices, and purported environmental hazards, to name just a few examples. Everyone has a problem with some aspect of his or her anatomy and physiology at some point, and this knowledge can help you be a better parent, spouse, care-giver, neighbor, friend, or colleague.
Knowledge of anatomy and physiology may also benefit your own health. Sometimes, comprehension of a particular fact or concept can help drive a good decision about long-term health matters, like the demonstrated benefits of exercise, or it may help you take appropriate action in the context of a specific medical problem, like an infection, an infarction, a cut, or a muscle strain. You may understand your doctors’ instructions better during a course of treatment, which may give you a better medical outcome.
About This Book This book guides you on a quick walk-through of human anatomy and physiology. It doesn’t have the same degree of technical detail as a textbook. It contains relatively little in the way of lists of important anatomical structures, for instance.
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We expect that most readers are using this book as a complementary resource for course work in anatomy and physiology at the high-school, college, or career-training level. Most of the information overlaps with the information available in your other resources. However, sometimes a slightly different presentation of a fact or of the relationship between facts can lead to a small “aha!” Some technical details in your more comprehensive resources may become easier to master after that.
The goals of this book are to be informal but not unscientific; brief but not sketchy; and information-rich but accessible to readers at many levels. We’ve tried to present a light but serious survey of human anatomy and physiology that you can enjoy for the sake of the information it imparts and that will help you perform well on your tests. As always, the reader is the judge of its success.
You won’t find clinical information in this book. Chapters 4 through 15 have a pathophysiology section that uses disorders and disease states to explore the details of some physiological processes, but this book contains nothing related to patient care or self-care. It’s also not a health and wellness manual or any kind of lifestyle book.
Conventions Used in This Book We use the following conventions throughout the text to make the presentation of information consistent and easy to understand:
✓ New terms appear in italic and are closely followed by an easy-tounderstand definition.
✓ Bold is used to highlight keywords in bulleted lists.
If you’re using this book as a supplement to an assigned textbook, your course materials may name structures and physiological substances using a different nomenclature (naming system) than the one we use in this book. (Very little in biology goes by only one name.)
What You’re Not to Read As much as we’d like you to read every word we’ve written, we recognize that you may have limited time or interest to do so. If you need to make the most of your time with the text, here’s what’s safe to skip:
✓ Text in sidebars: Sidebars are the shaded boxes that provide a more indepth look at some aspect of anatomy or physiology. In some instances, they connect real-world experiences with how your body responds.
✓ Text marked with a Technical Stuff icon: Sometimes we give you a nugget of information that’s a little more advanced. We mark these sentences with a Technical Stuff icon. If reading these paragraphs makes your head hurt, skip to the next paragraph.
Foolish Assumptions When we wrote this book, we tried to keep you in mind. We’re guessing that you fall into one of these categories:
✓ Formal student: You’re a high-school or college student enrolled in a basic anatomy and physiology course for credit, or a student in a careertraining program for a certification or credential. You need to pass an exam or otherwise demonstrate understanding and retention of data, terminology, and concepts in human anatomy and physiology.
✓ Informal student: You’re not enrolled in a credit course, but gaining some background in human anatomy and physiology is important to you for personal or professional reasons.
✓ Casual reader: Here you are with a book on your hands and a little time to spend reading it. And it’s all about you! How This Book Is Organized This isn’t a textbook, although it’s organized somewhat like a textbook. We present general information first, and then we break down each subject for more detailed discussions of the various organ systems defined by anatomists and physiologists. The book comprises 17 chapters, grouped into five parts. The table of contents and the index help you find general or specific information.
The book is illustrated with more than 60 line drawings and process diagrams. It also has 16 color plates — scientific yet original artistic renderings. Many of the color plates, found in the center of the book, show the distribution of an organ system through the entire body. Others show particularly important organs in some detail.
The material in the chapters is, at the very least, factual and logically presented, thanks to our technical review team. Some readers may also find the text amusing from time to time, as well as informative. If some reader should be struck by the awesome complexity and precision of biology while reading this book, its authors, editors, and illustrator will be well pleased.
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Part I: Locating Physiology on the Web of Knowledge Part I lays out some facts and concepts essential for understanding any field of biology. In Chapter 1, we map the position of human anatomy and physiology on the interconnected web of all biological and medical knowledge. We introduce the concept of five levels of biological organization, and we discuss how anatomical and physiological information fits into the tissue, organ, and organ system levels. In Chapter 2, we lay out the basics of everyday physiology: metabolism, energy flow, and homeostasis.
Chapter 3 is a helicopter flight over cell biology, intended to excite and amaze you and thus prime you to believe the seemingly miraculous cellular events that underlie a lot of the physiology discussion in the rest of the book. Most cell biology is subject to several alternative interpretations, but anything in this book not clearly labeled as “speculative” has been tested many times. Cell biologists are discovering the minute mechanisms of more wonders and catastrophes all the time.
Part II: Sizing Up the Structural Layers Part II is devoted to the three organ systems that form the physical bulk of your body: the skeletal system, the muscular system, and the integumentary system (the skin, along with its glands and accessories). Bones and muscles give your body mass, shape, mobility, and power in your habitat. Your skin is a huge area of contact with the environment, with all the dangers and opportunities that come with that exposure.
Together, these organ systems make up more than half the (dry) weight of the average human body. The musculoskeletal system (the skeleton plus the skeletal muscle) accounts for around 50 percent, and the skin accounts for another 12 percent to 15 percent. In addition to building and maintaining their own tissues, these organ systems contribute much to the physiology of other organ systems.
Part III: Exploring the Inner Workings Anatomists haven’t prescribed a sequence in which the various organ systems should be presented. Because the systems are all so interconnected, any sequence is at least partly arbitrary (although some decisions seem obvious, like placing the discussion of the urinary system after the discussion of the circulatory system and the digestive system).
In this book, we begin our focus on physiology with chapters about the body’s two information networks: the nervous system, for electrical messaging, and the endocrine system, for chemical messaging. Then come chapters on the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and immune systems. Rather than assume the reader’s familiarity with previous chapters, the chapters in this part are built to be read in any order. We give cross-references to other chapters when these may be helpful.
Part IV: Life’s Rich Pageant: Reproduction and Development Part IV is devoted to reproduction and the developmental life cycle of the new individual. This account strives to be as simple as possible, but the topic is inherently complex. The human body invests an enormous proportion of its energy and resources in reproduction, beginning with the partial development of the reproductive organs in its fetal stage. During puberty, this development is completed in a growth surge that sometimes seems to transform a boy or girl overnight. This physiological demand may be followed, eventually, by the demands of carrying a pregnancy and giving birth to a child. With the birth of a child, an individual holds a ticket in the lottery of evolutionary success.
Part V: The Part of Tens The Part of Tens is often a favorite of For Dummies readers. The first of two chapters in this part lists ten fundamental chemistry concepts related to life processes. The second chapter looks briefly at ten remarkable and sometimes obscure details of human anatomy and physiology. You should be able to find at least one sure-fire conversation-starter here.
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