Introduction Last Updated:14/6/11
In the introduction to the first edition of the textbook on ‘The Physiological Basis of Medical Practice’ that was published in 1938, the authors, Professors Charles Herbert Best and Norman Burke Taylor had written, “ Physiology is a science in its own right and the laboratory worker who pursues his research quite detached from medical problems need offer no apology for his academic outlook… Nevertheless we feel that the teacher of physiology in a medical school owes it to his students, whose ultimate interest it must be conceded is in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, to emphasize those aspects of the subject which will throw light upon disorders and functions. The physiologist can in this way play a part in giving the student and practitioner a vantage point from which he may gain a rational view of pathological processes”.
The faculty and staff members of the Department of Physiology practice both the laboratory and clinical aspects of physiology as a science. The research laboratories include: Autonomic Function Laboratory, Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab, Lifestyle Research laboratory, Pain Laboratory, Primate Implantation Biology Laboratory, Sleep Research Laboratory and Stress Physiology Laboratory.
The Autonomic Function Laboratory is involved in understanding the basic mechanisms in autonomic dysregulation in disease states and several studies are ongoing in collaboration with clinical departments of AIIMS. Indigenous software is being developed for multicentric trials for the quantification of autonomic tone.
In the Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory the primary focus is to explore the mechanisms underlying human perception, cognition and emotions using various non-invasive tools like event related evoked potentials, stroop tasks, startle reflex, bereitschaft potentials.
In the Lifestyle Research Laboratory the emphasis lies in understanding the physiological basis of lifestyle intervention in pre-disease and diseases states.
The Pain Laboratory is exploring the neural mechanisms involved in pain perception and its alleviation with the use of sucrose therapy. Experiments are being conducted using the rat as an animal model to test the hypothesis that sucrose therapy may alleviate chronic pain, studies are ongoing using human subjects in collaboration with the Department of Neurology, AIIMS. Studies are also being conducted as an Indo-Russian scientific collaboration to understand the physiological basis of therapeutic intervention in spinal injury using magnetic stimulation.
The Primate Implantation Biology Laboratory is involved in exploring the genomic signature of endometrial receptivity that allows a blastocyst to implant in the uterus and establish pregnancy. In collaboration with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, AIIMS, experiments are being done to examine villous placental trophoblast turnover in normal pregnancy and to screen genomic expressions in eutopic and ectopic endometria of patients suffering from endometriosis.
The Sleep Research Laboratory examines in the rat model the homeostatic mechanisms involved in the medial preoptic area for fine-tuning food intake, body temperature, locomotor activity and sleep-wakefulness. State-of-art laboratories are available in the department for conducting such studies that also involve active collaboration with the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory of AIIMS.
In the Stress Physiology Laboratory the EEG signature of stress is being assessed with various cognitive functions to associate the physiological and psychological markers of stress in an effort to test whether lifestyle and meditation can help individuals overcome stress. Studies are ongoing using human subjects to understand the physiology of stress and its alleviation using lifestyle interventions.
The post graduate teaching programme for MD (Physiology) and MSc (Physiology) is fostered through a challenging self-learning programme in basic and applied physiology. It includes in-depth journal club sessions, seminars and state-of-art practicals in molecular biology, cell biology, hematology, neuromuscular physiology, respiratory and cardiovascular physiology, gastrointestinal physiology, food and nutrition, neurophysiology including the special senses, physiology of growth development and aging and environmental physiology. The post-graduate students receive training not only in developing an understanding of the subject but also to develop skills in objective assessment of the subject through preparation of multiple choice questions (MCQs), MCQ validations and framing of questions for objective structured practical examination (OSPE).
The Department of Physiology has a long tradition of excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level. It has been the first department in this Institute to introduce MSQs to aid in student assessment and the first department to have its teaching programme evaluated by the students and these practice continue till date. The Department of Physiology has been the first department in India to introduce OSPEs as a learning and examination tool, and probably the first department for providing a clinical rotation for three months to its MD students.
About 20 years ago the department had started offering facility for Autonomic Function Tests to patients suffering from a variety of ailments and undergoing treatment in this institute. This facility continues to provide world-class autonomic function testing to patients.
After performing pioneering research on yoga more than 40 years ago the department has initiated in 2000 an Integral Health Clinic where yoga and lifestyle management is provided to patients within a framework of mind-body medicine.
The Pain Laboratory provides diagnostic facility for referred patients of early Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides auxiliary services to the pain clinic of AIIMS in the choice of the type of intervention and its evaluation for chronic headache and neuralgia patients
Professor and Head,
Department of Physiology