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Anatomy vs Physiology 101: How can we make a difference between anatomy and physiology

Anatomy and Physiology are the two most significant subjects or courses in the curriculum of medical degree programs either MBBS or BDS or Pharm D. Usually they studied together in most academics institutions and medical colleges. This gives rise to confusion about the difference between anatomy and physiology. Medical students go through these medical terms throughout their education and professional life. Is it impossible for people having the medical background to be unfamiliar with these terms? However, students of general science or pre-medical often seem confused while differentiating between anatomy and physiology.

This article is designed to fulfill the need of students in the proper understanding of these two well known medical subjects, their significance in the medical field and similarity, and discrimination between Anatomy vs Physiology.

Anatomy vs Physiology 101

Under this heading, we cover all aspects of the difference between physiology and anatomy, starting from definitions to career opportunities, 

In Lights of Definition: Physiology vs anatomy

Physiology can be defined as a branch of biology that mainly deals with the normal functioning of a living organism (both animal & plant) and its parts. From the perspective of medical knowledge, physiology can be defined as the science behind the normal working and functioning of human body parts to maintain a normal and healthy life.

Anatomy can be defined as a division of biology that is linked with the structure of living organism specifically humans and their body parts. It includes the study of all types of cells, tissues of muscles that constitute an organ. 

Different Significance From Medical Perspectives: Physiology vs anatomy

In this comparison between physiology and anatomy, it will be an injustice to make physiology dominant and prominent over anatomy or vice versa. Both divisions of biology are equally significant in a different manner. It is essential to keep an eye on their importance in the medical field by reviewing the dissimilarities between them. 

Medical students need to study physiology intensely. Its has its significance in medical sciences because of the points mentioned below

Significance of Physiology:

  • Physiology gives a proper understanding of the normal functioning of body organs
  • It is further linked with pathology 
  • Physiology enables an individual to learn the full mechanism behind any particular process that goes on n human body
  • Without understanding physiology ( normal functioning) a person cannot be able to sort out the disease condition I.e abnormal functioning or pathology.

In contrast with physiology, anatomy has its essential value that cannot be neglected. 

Significance of Anatomy:

  • Anatomy deals with the structure of organ that is a basic step to study any body part
  • Anatomy provides basic knowledge to MBBS students specifically for learning surgery 
  • It also deals with the location of the organs, types, and layers of tissue that support the surgery courses of MBBS and BDS curriculum.

In both, Anatomy and Physiology, We study the different internal human body parts and organ systems. Below given illustration provides a clear view of the different human body organ systems that are studied in anatomy and physiology subjects.

Designed By Freepik

Sub Division or Branches: Difference Between Anatomy and Physiology

Physiology and anatomy are too wide and broad subjects. Therefore they are divided into subdivisions. Not all medical students study physiology or anatomy as a whole. It depends on their Course outline of a degree program that which subclass of division ph physiology o anatomy needs more focus and concentration

Physiology is further subdivided into the following divisions based on organs and organ system of the human body

  1. Neurophysiology i.e study f functions of nerve cell
  2. Endocrinology i.e study of hormone sections and their impact on other organs
  3. Cardiovascular physiology i.e study of the functioning of heart & blood vessels
  4. Immunology i.e study of body defense against disease
  5. Respiratory physiology i.e study of the function of lungs and airways
  6. Renal physiology i.e study of the functioning of the kidney
  7. Pathophysiology i.e study of disease and changes in normal functioning due to aging.


Almost all of these branches are the essential part of the degree program  of MBBS and Pharm D. and BDS also 

Whereas anatomy also further subdivided into its subclasses 

1 . Gross Anatomy

It is related to the macroscopic study of overall body and further include

  • Regional anatomy i.e study of body parts  like head leg etc
  • Systemic anatomy includes the study of systems of the body
  • Surface Anatomy linked with the study of surface and underneath the surface 

2. Microscopic Anatomy:

It includes a microscopic study of the body and further consist of

  • Cytology
  • Histology

3. Developmental Anatomy:

It focuses on the anatomy of development i.e embryology (the study of embryonic development)

4. Specialized Anatomy:

It further includes:

  • Pathological anatomy
  • Radiographic anatomy
  • Surgical anatomy

Key points in the Comparison between Physiology and Anatomy:

The difference between physiology and anatomy can be moe demonstrated & highlighted by the following key points.

  • Anatomy can be observed & analyzed in both living or dead bodies, but physiology can only be observed in the living body.
  • Dead body or cadaver can be used to study anatomy but not physiology.
  • Anatomy deals with the constitution of body structure and organs like cell, tissue, and whereas physiology deals with the functions and specific role of body parts.
  • Discussing the anatomy of the brain means observing its structure. layers and parts, while the physiology of the brain focus the function of the brain and its main parts.

Physiology vs Anatomy: Degree programs

Degree programs are available for both physiology and anatomy at both bachelor and graduate level. This degree programs also open the door of career opportunities and career goals for the individual. 

Designed By Freepik

Physiology degree is can be granted as : 

  • Undergraduate level
  • Masters level
  • Doctoral level

Same in case of Anatomy

  • Masters degree programs in Anatomical science
  • The doctoral degree program in anatomical sciences.

Combined course for anatomy & physiology:

Students in pre-medical and pre-vet usually study anatomy and physiology in a combined course. This is known as A&P. In addition to it. specialization in various subdivisions of Anatomy and physiology is also a good option for those students who want to pursue their carrier in the field of either physiology or anatomy

Career opportunities for Physiologist and Anatomist:

Graduates with advance degree in anatomy have opportunities to pursue their career as

  • Researchers
  • Healthcare educators

Whereas individual with physiology degree at bachelor level can get career chances as

  • Entry-level research
  • Placement in hospital
  • or Placement in the insurance company
  • Placement in academics 

It is worth mentioning that any degree program in anatomy o physiology is supposed to be the cornerstone for a further study program in the following fields 

  • Physical therapy
  • Orthopedic medicine
  • Sports medicine.

Relation Between Physiology and Anatomy:

Physiology and anatomy are deeply connected with one another. It is impossible to study one without another. That’s the reason thy are too often combine in a single course. Their relationship is based on many similarities that shared by both of these significant subjects

  • Both physiology and anatomy are related with body structure and body organs
  • You cannot understand physiology without the basic knowledge of anatomy or vice versa
  • They are essential to study together for a proper understanding of specific human body organ
  • If u skip anatomy. You will unable to tell the exact composition or location of a particular tissue, muscle, bones, or any specific organ. On the other hand, if you skip physiology you be able to get the role of bones, tissues. muscles, or organs like the heart. The exact mechanism behind body systems will remain a challenge for you throughout the entire life

Bottom line:

Physiology and anatomy are two fundamental and essentials of medical science. To get the proper concepts and facts they are smartly studied together in Academics and medical colleges to provide student with the best understandings with excellence.

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