Higher Human Biology:
Course summary

Based on sections in the James Torrance textbook

Unit 1: Cell function and inheritance

1. Structure and variety of proteins

Primary, secondary and tertiary structure, fibrous proteins (e.g. in muscle fibres), globular proteins, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, transport proteins (e.g. transferrin), structural protein (e.g. in cell membranes), conjugated proteins (glycoprotein, lipoprotein, haemoglobin);

2. Role of enzymes

Enzymes as catalysts, lock-and-key theory, effect of temperature, effect of pH, effect of enzyme concentration, effect of substrate concentration (e.g. on catalase), competitive and non-competitive inhibitors (e.g. cyanide as non-competitive inhibitor of cytochrome oxidase), cofactors (e.g. minerals), coenzymes (e.g. vitamin B), activators, inborn errors of metabolism;

3. Nucleic acids and protein synthesis

Structure of DNA/RNA, genetic code, transcription, ribosomes, translation, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, ultrastructure of a cell;

4. ATP and energy transfer

Effect of ATP on muscle, structure and role of ATP, oxidation and reduction, aerobic respiration (glycolysis, fate of pyruvic acid, Krebs cycle, hydrogen/electron transfer system), anaerobic respiration, mitochondria;

5. Sources of energy

Types of carbohydrate (monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides), testing for carbohydrates (Benedict's test, Barfoed's test, Clinistix, iodine), types of lipid (triglycerides, phospholipids, steroids), role of lipids (energy storage, insulation, padding, vitamin transport, hormones, membrane components), proteins, starvation, marathon running;

6. Cell membrane and transport of materials

Structure of membrane, function of membrane as selective barrier, diffusion, osmosis (e.g. in haemolysis), active transport (e.g. Na/K pump), endocytosis (phagocytosis and pinocytosis), exocytosis;

7. Cellular response in defence

Barriers to entry of microbes, phagocytosis, antigens and antibodies, B and T lymphocytes, immunological memory, naturally and artificially acquired immunity, active and passive immunity, allergies, self and non-self (ABO blood groups, human leukocyte antigen system, rejection of transplants), autoimmunity;

8. Viruses

Parasitic nature, structure, invasion of cells, vaccination (e.g. against smallpox), retroviruses, HIV;

9. Chromosomes and DNA replication

Nature of genes and chromosomes, autosomes and sex chromosomes, haploid and diploid, mitosis and meiosis (in human life cycle); DNA replication;

10. Meiosis

Need for reduction division, process of meiosis, importance of variation, independent assortment, crossing-over; genetic fingerprinting;

11. Monohybrid inheritance

Mendel's pea plants, genotype and phenotype, homozygous and heterozygous, fruit fly experiments (e.g. long-wing x short-wing), law of probability, human examples (tongue rolling, Rhesus D-antigen, albinism, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, Huntington's chorea), incomplete dominance (e.g. in sickle-cell anaemia), co-dominance (e.g. in MN blood groups), multiple alleles (e.g. in ABO blood groups);

12. Sex-linked and polygenic inheritance

Sex chromosomes, sex-linked genes (e.g. red-green colour blindness, haemophilia, muscular dystrophy), discontinuous and continuous variation, polygenic inheritance (e.g. cereal grain colour), effect of environment;

13. Mutations and chromosomal abnormalities

Types of gene mutation (substitution, inversion, insertion, deletion), human examples (albinism, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria), mutagenic agents, non-disjunction, Down's syndrome, sex chromosome abnormalities (Turner's syndrome, Klinefelter's syndrome);

14. Genetic screening and counselling

Pedigrees, types of inheritance (autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant, sex-linked recessive), risk assessment, pre-natal screening (amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling), post-natal screening (e.g. for phenylketonuria), future DNA technology.

Unit 2: The continuation of life

15. Sex organs and hormonal control

Testes and accessory glands, ovaries, gonadotrophins (FSH, LH / ICSH), sex hormones (testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone), menstrual cycle (hormones, follicular and luteal phases, body temperature changes), HCG secretion following fertilisation, role of cervix in fertility, continuous versus cyclical fertility;

16. Intervention in fertility

Causes of infertility (failure of ovulation, blockage of oviducts, failure of implantation, low sperm count), in vitro fertilisation, artificial insemination, contraception (rhythm method, hormonal pills/implants);

17. Pre-natal development

Cleavage, implantation, differentiation, monozygotic and dizygotic twins, useful exchanges between mother and foetus, harmful exchanges, (e.g. thalidomide, alcohol, nicotine, heroin, rubella, HIV), placental hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, prolactin), Rhesus factor;

18. Birth and post-natal development

Process of birth, induction of birth with oxytocin, nutrition of newborn (role of oxytocin and prolactin, colostrum, organochlorines in milk), pattern of growth, growth curves, growth hormone, puberty and the role of 'releaser hormone' and gonadotrophins, anabolic steroids in sport;

19. Need for transport system

Surface area to volume ratios, absorbing surfaces, circulatory system, arteries and veins, capillaries, tissue fluid, lymph, heart structure, heart valves, pulmonary and systemic circulation, hepatic portal vein, coronary artery, coronary heart disease (atherosclerosis, angina, thrombosis);

20. Transport mechanisms

Cardiac cycle (systole/diastole/relaxation), valves and heart sounds, electrical excitation of heart, electrocardiography and abnormalities (atrial flutter, fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia), blood pressure, elasticity of arteries, danger of high blood pressure, role of lymphatic system (return of fluid, lipid absorption, lymph nodes), causes of oedema (high blood pressure, malnutrition, elephantiasis);

21. Delivery of oxygen to cells

Haemoglobin, oxygen tension, oxygen dissociation curves, effect of temperature on haemoglobin, foetal haemoglobin, red blood cells and their production/destruction, nutrients involved (iron, vitamin B12);

22. Delivery of nutrients to cells

Absorption in small intestine, lipid digestion (bile as an emulsifier, lipase), portal system, carbohydrate/lipid/protein metabolism in liver, fate of absorbed materials, vitamins and minerals;

23. Removal of materials from blood

Transport and excretion of carbon dioxide, roles of liver (conservation of useful substances, removal of toxins by alteration/breakdown/conjugation/uptake by macrophages), bilirubin, jaundice, urea, structure and role of kidneys, ultrafiltration, reabsorption of glucose/salt/water, anti-diuretic hormone and osmoregulation;

24. Regulating mechanisms

Homeostasis, negative feedback, control of heart rate (pacemaker, autonomic nerves, adrenaline), effect of exercise on respiratory system (response to carbon dioxide) and cardiovascular system (increased cardiac output, redistribution of blood), control of blood sugar (insulin, glucagon, adrenaline), diabetes, glucose tolerance tests, control of body temperature (sweating, vasodilation/vasoconstriction, hair erection, shivering, heat production in liver, hormones), voluntary responses to temperature, thermoregulation in infants (brown fat, critical temperature), hypothermia (in infants and the elderly), breakdown of homeostasis;

Unit 3: Behaviour, populations and environment

25. Brain

Evolutionary development of brain, cerebrum (grey and white matter, convoluted surface), functional areas (e.g. motor area), electroencephalograms, brain scans, split-brain studies (e.g. of visual pathways), evidence from brain injuries (damaged frontal lobes, shrapnel wounds, lesions, strokes);

26. Organisation of the nervous system

Sensory and motor pathways, somatic nervous system, autonomic nervous system (sympathetic nerves in 'fight or flight' response, parasympathetic nerves for calming down, antagonistic nature allowing finely tuned control);

27. Neurones and neural pathways

Neurone structure (dendrites, cell body, axon), myelination (increased transmission speed, infant development, multiple sclerosis), synaptic transmission (neurotransmitters, thresholds, frequency of impulses, removal of neurotransmitter), excitatory and inhibitory signals (e.g. in parasympathetic nerves), diverging pathways (e.g. fine motor control, temperature control), converging pathways (e.g. in retina), plasticity of responses (e.g. suppression of blinking, effect of distraction);

28. Localisation of memory

Declarative and procedural memories, evidence for localisation (removal of limbic system, personal vs. general memories, left and right lobes, electrical stimulation), memory at neuronal level, molecular basis of memory (failure to retrieve old memories, formation of new memories);

29. Memory - encoding, storage and retrieval

Selective memory, encoding, storage and retrieval, memory span, chunking, level 1/2/3 memory, transfer between short-term and long-term memory, rehearsal, serial position effect, organisation of memory, elaboration of meaning, classification of items in long-term memory, memory lapses, mnemonic devices;

30. Factors influencing development of behaviour

Maturation (walking, speech, cognitive abilities), inherited disorders (e.g. Huntington's chorea, phenylketonuria), intelligence, IQ tests, effect of environment, twin studies (e.g. alcoholism, schizophrenia), inter-relationships between factors;

31. Importance of infant attachment

Infant attachment, contact comfort (e.g. in monkey experiments), effects of deprivation (e.g. in strange situations);

32. Effect of communication

Non-verbal communication in infants (parent-infant bonding, smiling) and adults (facial expressions, looking, eye contact, body language, personal space), cultural differences, verbal communication (tone of voice, language);

33. Effect of experience

Effect of practice on motor skills (e.g. finger mazes), learning curves, imitation (e.g. social skills), influence of media, trial-and-error, motivation, reinforcement (positive/negative, continuous/intermittent, superstition), shaping of behaviour, extinction of unrewarded behaviour, generalisation, discrimination between stimuli;

34. Effect of group behaviour and social influence

Social groups, social facilitation, intense competition, group pressure, deindividuation, risk-taking, anonymity, internalisation, effect of advertising, identification with a group;

35. Population change

Carrying capacity, phases of population growth curve, population stability and regulation, history of human population growth (hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers) and factors responsible (overcoming predation, food availability, reduced childhood, mortality, increased fertility, increased life expectancy), doubling time;

36. Demographic trends

Demographics of developed/developing countries, demographic transition model, population pyramids, population control (deer populations, birth control, family planning, effect of AIDS);

37. Food supply as a limiting factor

Natural ecological succession, pressure on land, deforestation, cash crops, use of marginal land, monoculture, fertiliser/herbicide/pesticide use, selective plant breeding (inbreeding and outbreeding, Green Revolution), GM crops (recombinant DNA, somatic fusion), effect of food shortage (famine, starvation, malnutrition), unequal distribution of food, overeating and long food chains;

38. Water as a limiting factor

Water cycle, increasing demand for water, meeting demand (micro-irrigation, dams), unpredictability of water supply, climate, El Niño, erosion, deforestation, desertification;

39. Effect of disease

Regulation of populations by disease, vaccination (e.g. against smallpox), control of childhood diseases, hygiene, sanitation, living conditions;

40. Human population effects on environment

Food webs, effect of chemicals on wildlife (e.g. DDT), interdependence of ecological communities, loss of complexity leading to instability, nitrogen cycle, eutrophication, sewage disposal, nitrate/nitrite contamination of drinking water, carbon cycle, greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, CFCs), global warming and its effects (on climate, sea level, ecosystems), possible future courses of action.


Disclaimer: I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information given here, and the syllabus may change in the future. For authoritative information about this course, see the Scottish Qualifications Authority web site.

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© Andrew Gray, 2005