What is the Difference between Neurobiology and Physiology?


Neurobiology or Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system), its functions and disorders. It is a multidisciplinary science that combines physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, psychology, physics, computer science, chemistry, medicine, statistics, and mathematical modeling to understand the fundamental and emergent properties of neurons, glia, and neural circuits.

The scope of neuroscience has broadened over time to include different approaches used to study the nervous system at different scales. The techniques used by neuroscientists have expanded enormously, from molecular and cellular studies of individual neurons to imaging of sensory, motor, and cognitive tasks in the brain.

Physiology is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. As a sub-discipline of biology, physiology focuses on how organisms, organ systems, individual organs, cells, and biomolecules carry out the chemical and physical functions in a living system. According to the classes of organisms, the field can be divided into medical physiology, animal physiology, plant physiology, cell physiology, and comparative physiology.

Central to physiological functioning are biophysical and biochemical processes, homeostatic control mechanisms, and communication between cells. Physiological state is the condition of normal function. In contrast, pathological state refers to abnormal conditions, including human diseases.


Modern advances in the classification of neuronal cells have been enabled by electrophysiological recording, single-cell genetic sequencing, and high-quality microscopy. The morphology, molecular identity, and physiological characteristics of neurons and how they relate to different types of behavior are also of considerable interest. Cellular neuroscience includes the mechanisms of how neurons process signals physiologically and electrochemically. Neuroscience includes how neural circuits are formed and used anatomically and physiologically to produce functions such as reflexes, multisensory integration, motor coordination, circadian rhythms, emotional responses, learning, and memory.

Cognitive neuroscience addresses the questions of how psychological functions are produced by neural circuitry. Neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, psychosurgery, anesthesiology and pain medicine, neuropathology, neuroradiology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, clinical neurophysiology, addiction medicine, and sleep medicine are some medical specialties that specifically address the diseases of the nervous system.

Behavioral Neuroscience

Behavioral neuroscience (also known as biological psychology, physiological psychology, biopsychology, or psychobiology) is the application of the principles of biology to the study of genetic, physiological, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and non-human animals.

Cellular Neuroscience

Cellular neuroscience is the study of neurons at a cellular level including morphology and physiological properties.


Neurophysiology is the study of the structure and function of the nervous system, generally using physiological techniques that include measurement and stimulation with electrodes or optically with ion- or voltage-sensitive dyes or light-sensitive channels.


Human physiology seeks to understand the mechanisms that work to keep the human body alive and functioning, through scientific enquiry into the nature of mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of humans, their organs, and the cells of which they are composed. The principal level of focus of physiology is at the level of organs and systems within systems.

Changes in physiology can impact the mental functions of individuals. Involving evolutionary physiology and environmental physiology, comparative physiology considers the diversity of functional characteristics across organisms. Physiology is in large part because the field has given birth to some of the most active domains of today's biological sciences, such as neuroscience, endocrinology, and immunology.


There are many ways to categorize the subdisciplines of physiology.

Based on the taxa studied

human physiology, animal physiology, plant physiology, microbial physiology, viral physiology.

Based on the level of organization

cell physiology, molecular physiology, systems physiology, organismal physiology, ecological physiology, integrative physiology.

Based on the process that causes physiological variation

developmental physiology, environmental physiology, evolutionary physiology.

Based on the ultimate goals of the research

applied physiology (medical physiology), non-applied (comparative physiology).


Neurophysiology is a branch of physiology and neuroscience that studies nervous system function rather than nervous system architecture. This area aids in the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological diseases.

Historically, it has been dominated by electrophysiology-the electrical recording of neural activity ranging from the molar (the electroencephalogram, EEG) to the cellular (intracellular recording of the properties of single neurons), such as patch clamp, voltage clamp, extracellular single-unit recording and recording of local field potentials.

However, since the neuron is an electrochemical machine, it is difficult to isolate electrical events from the metabolic and molecular processes that cause them. Thus, neurophysiologists currently utilize tools from chemistry (calcium imaging), physics (functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI), and molecular biology (site directed mutations) to examine brain activity. The word originates from the Greek word meaning "nerve" and physiology meaning knowledge about the function of living systems.


Neurophysiology and neurobiology are fields that examine the brain and the neural system. Physiologists and neuroscientists have access to a variety of research facilities. The study of physiology and neurobiology falls under the umbrella of Biology and helps to know the function and vital processes of organisms, be they animals or humans. The lines of distinction between the two are very thin.

Updated on: 18-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started