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One of the problems that we have found when teaching human physiology in a Spanish medical school is that the degree of understanding by the students of the integration between organs and systems is rather poor. We attempted to remedy this problem by using a case discussion method together with the Quantitative Circulatory Physiology (QCP) program. QCP is a Windows-based computer simulation program that offers almost real-time simulation and allows users to examine the time-dependent interactions of over 750 parameters. We evaluated students' perceptions by an anonymous questionnaire. Teachers' perceptions of this teaching approach were highly positive, as it improved students' perceptions of the complexity of biological processes, their ability to differentiate between acute and chronic responses, and promoted an integrative understanding of human body function. Teachers also identified some problems with the approach, including student difficulties in adopting self-directed learning, a lack of precision in student questions during the discussion sessions, and the lack of a tradition of using several textbooks to explain the changes observed. The results of the student questionnaire revealed that >70% of the students reported that this type of learning gave them a better understanding of the complexity of physiological processes and the role of coordinated actions of several systems in the homeostatic response and enabled them to acquire a better understanding of human body functions. Thus, we conclude that this approach promotes an integrative understanding of cardiovascular and renal functions that is difficult to achieve with other methods.
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