Cranium anatomy definition

Cranium anatomy definition DEFAULT

Skull

This article is about the skulls of all animals including humans. For other uses, see Skull (disambiguation) and Cranium (disambiguation).

Bony structure that forms the head in vertebrates

The skull is a bone structure that forms the head in vertebrates. It supports the structures of the face and provides a protective cavity for the brain.[1] The skull is composed of two parts: the cranium and the mandible. In humans, these two parts are the neurocranium and the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) that includes the mandible as its largest bone. The skull forms the anterior-most portion of the skeleton and is a product of cephalisation—housing the brain, and several sensory structures such as the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.[2] In humans these sensory structures are part of the facial skeleton.

Functions of the skull include protection of the brain, fixing the distance between the eyes to allow stereoscopic vision, and fixing the position of the ears to enable sound localisation of the direction and distance of sounds. In some animals, such as horned ungulates (mammals with hooves), the skull also has a defensive function by providing the mount (on the frontal bone) for the horns.

The English word skull is probably derived from Old Norseskulle,[3] while the Latin word cranium comes from the Greek rootκρανίον (kranion).

The skull is made up of a number of fused flat bones, and contains many foramina, fossae, processes, and several cavities or sinuses. In zoology there are openings in the skull called fenestrae.

Structure[edit]

Humans[edit]

For details and the constituent bones, see Neurocranium and Facial skeleton.

Anatomy of a flat bone - the periosteum of the neurocranium is known as the pericranium
Human skull from the front

The human skull is the bone structure that forms the head in the human skeleton. It supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain. Like the skulls of other vertebrates, it protects the brain from injury.[4]

The skull consists of three parts, of different embryological origin—the neurocranium, the sutures, and the facial skeleton (also called the membraneous viscerocranium). The neurocranium (or braincase) forms the protective cranial cavity that surrounds and houses the brain and brainstem.[5] The upper areas of the cranial bones form the calvaria (skullcap). The membranous viscerocranium includes the mandible.

The sutures are fairly rigid joints between bones of the neurocranium.

The facial skeleton is formed by the bones supporting the face.

Bones[edit]

Except for the mandible, all of the bones of the skull are joined together by sutures—synarthrodial (immovable) joints formed by bony ossification, with Sharpey's fibres permitting some flexibility. Sometimes there can be extra bone pieces within the suture known as wormian bones or sutural bones. Most commonly these are found in the course of the lambdoid suture.

The human skull is generally considered to consist of twenty-two bones—eight cranial bones and fourteen facial skeleton bones. In the neurocranium these are the occipital bone, two temporal bones, two parietal bones, the sphenoid, ethmoid and frontal bones.

The bones of the facial skeleton (14) are the vomer, two inferior nasal conchae, two nasal bones, two maxilla, the mandible, two palatine bones, two zygomatic bones, and two lacrimal bones. Some sources count a paired bone as one, or the maxilla as having two bones (as its parts); some sources include the hyoid bone or the three ossicles of the middle ear but the overall general consensus of the number of bones in the human skull is the stated twenty-two.

Some of these bones—the occipital, parietal, frontal, in the neurocranium, and the nasal, lacrimal, and vomer, in the facial skeleton are flat bones.

Cavities and foramina[edit]

CT scan of a human skull in 3D

The skull also contains sinuses, air-filled cavities known as paranasal sinuses, and numerous foramina. The sinuses are lined with respiratory epithelium. Their known functions are the lessening of the weight of the skull, the aiding of resonance to the voice and the warming and moistening of the air drawn into the nasal cavity.

The foramina are openings in the skull. The largest of these is the foramen magnum that allows the passage of the spinal cord as well as nerves and blood vessels.

Processes[edit]

The many processes of the skull include the mastoid process and the zygomatic processes.

Other vertebrates[edit]

Fenestrae[edit]

The temporalfenestrae are anatomical features of the skulls of several types of amniotes, characterised by bilaterally symmetrical holes (fenestrae) in the temporal bone. Depending on the lineage of a given animal, two, one, or no pairs of temporal fenestrae may be present, above or below the postorbital and squamosal bones. The upper temporal fenestrae are also known as the supratemporal fenestrae, and the lower temporal fenestrae are also known as the infratemporal fenestrae. The presence and morphology of the temporal fenestra are critical for taxonomic classification of the synapsids, of which mammals are part.

Physiological speculation associates it with a rise in metabolic rates and an increase in jaw musculature. The earlier amniotes of the Carboniferous did not have temporal fenestrae but two more advanced lines did: the synapsids (mammal-like reptiles) and the diapsids (most reptiles and later birds). As time progressed, diapsids' and synapsids' temporal fenestrae became more modified and larger to make stronger bites and more jaw muscles. Dinosaurs, which are diapsids, have large advanced openings, and their descendants, the birds, have temporal fenestrae which have been modified. Mammals, which are synapsids, possess one fenestral opening in the skull, situated to the rear of the orbit.

Classification[edit]

There are four types of amniote skull, classified by the number and location of their temporal fenestrae. These are:

  • Anapsida – no openings
  • Synapsida – one low opening (beneath the postorbital and squamosal bones)
  • Euryapsida – one high opening (above the postorbital and squamosal bones); euryapsids actually evolved from a diapsid configuration, losing their lower temporal fenestra.
  • Diapsida – two openings

Evolutionarily, they are related as follows:

Bones[edit]

The jugal is a skull bone found in most reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In mammals, the jugal is often called the zygomatic bone or malar bone.

The prefrontal bone is a bone separating the lacrimal and frontal bones in many tetrapod skulls.

Fish[edit]

Fish head parts, 1889, Fauna of British India, Sir Francis Day

The skull of fishes is formed from a series of only loosely connected bones. Lampreys and sharks only possess a cartilaginous endocranium, with both the upper and lower jaws being separate elements. Bony fishes have additional dermal bone, forming a more or less coherent skull roof in lungfish and holost fish. The lower jaw defines a chin.

The simpler structure is found in jawless fish, in which the cranium is normally represented by a trough-like basket of cartilaginous elements only partially enclosing the brain, and associated with the capsules for the inner ears and the single nostril. Distinctively, these fish have no jaws.[6]

Cartilaginous fish, such as sharks and rays, have also simple, and presumably primitive, skull structures. The cranium is a single structure forming a case around the brain, enclosing the lower surface and the sides, but always at least partially open at the top as a large fontanelle. The most anterior part of the cranium includes a forward plate of cartilage, the rostrum, and capsules to enclose the olfactory organs. Behind these are the orbits, and then an additional pair of capsules enclosing the structure of the inner ear. Finally, the skull tapers towards the rear, where the foramen magnum lies immediately above a single condyle, articulating with the first vertebra. There are, in addition, at various points throughout the cranium, smaller foramina for the cranial nerves. The jaws consist of separate hoops of cartilage, almost always distinct from the cranium proper.[6]

In ray-finned fish, there has also been considerable modification from the primitive pattern. The roof of the skull is generally well formed, and although the exact relationship of its bones to those of tetrapods is unclear, they are usually given similar names for convenience. Other elements of the skull, however, may be reduced; there is little cheek region behind the enlarged orbits, and little, if any bone in between them. The upper jaw is often formed largely from the premaxilla, with the maxilla itself located further back, and an additional bone, the symplectic, linking the jaw to the rest of the cranium.[7]

Although the skulls of fossil lobe-finned fish resemble those of the early tetrapods, the same cannot be said of those of the living lungfishes. The skull roof is not fully formed, and consists of multiple, somewhat irregularly shaped bones with no direct relationship to those of tetrapods. The upper jaw is formed from the pterygoids and vomers alone, all of which bear teeth. Much of the skull is formed from cartilage, and its overall structure is reduced.[7]

Tetrapods[edit]

The skulls of the earliest tetrapods closely resembled those of their ancestors amongst the lobe-finned fishes. The skull roof is formed of a series of plate-like bones, including the maxilla, frontals, parietals, and lacrimals, among others. It is overlaying the endocranium, corresponding to the cartilaginous skull in sharks and rays. The various separate bones that compose the temporal bone of humans are also part of the skull roof series. A further plate composed of four pairs of bones forms the roof of the mouth; these include the vomer and palatine bones. The base of the cranium is formed from a ring of bones surrounding the foramen magnum and a median bone lying further forward; these are homologous with the occipital bone and parts of the sphenoid in mammals. Finally, the lower jaw is composed of multiple bones, only the most anterior of which (the dentary) is homologous with the mammalian mandible.[7]

In living tetrapods, a great many of the original bones have either disappeared or fused into one another in various arrangements.

Birds[edit]

Birds have a diapsid skull, as in reptiles, with a prelacrimal fossa (present in some reptiles). The skull has a single occipital condyle.[8] The skull consists of five major bones: the frontal (top of head), parietal (back of head), premaxillary and nasal (top beak), and the mandible (bottom beak). The skull of a normal bird usually weighs about 1% of the bird's total bodyweight. The eye occupies a considerable amount of the skull and is surrounded by a sclerotic eye-ring, a ring of tiny bones. This characteristic is also seen in reptiles.

Amphibians[edit]

Amphibians skulls, Hans Gadow, 1909 Amphibia and Reptiles

Living amphibians typically have greatly reduced skulls, with many of the bones either absent or wholly or partly replaced by cartilage.[7] In mammals and birds, in particular, modifications of the skull occurred to allow for the expansion of the brain. The fusion between the various bones is especially notable in birds, in which the individual structures may be difficult to identify.

Development[edit]

Skull of a new-born child from the side

The skull is a complex structure; its bones are formed both by intramembranous and endochondral ossification. The skull roof bones, comprising the bones of the facial skeleton and the sides and roof of the neurocranium, are dermal bones formed by intramembranous ossification, though the temporal bones are formed by endochondral ossification. The endocranium, the bones supporting the brain (the occipital, sphenoid, and ethmoid) are largely formed by endochondral ossification. Thus frontal and parietal bones are purely membranous.[9] The geometry of the skull base and its fossae, the anterior, middle and posterior cranial fossae changes rapidly. The anterior cranial fossa changes especially during the first trimester of pregnancy and skull defects can often develop during this time.[10]

At birth, the human skull is made up of 44 separate bony elements. During development, many of these bony elements gradually fuse together into solid bone (for example, the frontal bone). The bones of the roof of the skull are initially separated by regions of dense connective tissue called fontanelles. There are six fontanelles: one anterior (or frontal), one posterior (or occipital), two sphenoid (or anterolateral), and two mastoid (or posterolateral). At birth, these regions are fibrous and moveable, necessary for birth and later growth. This growth can put a large amount of tension on the "obstetrical hinge", which is where the squamous and lateral parts of the occipital bone meet. A possible complication of this tension is rupture of the great cerebral vein. As growth and ossification progress, the connective tissue of the fontanelles is invaded and replaced by bone creating sutures. The five sutures are the two squamous sutures, one coronal, one lambdoid, and one sagittal suture. The posterior fontanelle usually closes by eight weeks, but the anterior fontanel can remain open up to eighteen months. The anterior fontanelle is located at the junction of the frontal and parietal bones; it is a "soft spot" on a baby's forehead. Careful observation will show that you can count a baby's heart rate by observing the pulse pulsing softly through the anterior fontanelle.

The skull in the neonate is large in proportion to other parts of the body. The facial skeleton is one seventh of the size of the calvaria. (In the adult it is half the size). The base of the skull is short and narrow, though the inner ear is almost adult size.[11]

Clinical significance[edit]

Craniosynostosis is a condition in which one or more of the fibrous sutures in an infant skull prematurely fuses,[12] and changes the growth pattern of the skull.[13] Because the skull cannot expand perpendicular to the fused suture, it grows more in the parallel direction.[13] Sometimes the resulting growth pattern provides the necessary space for the growing brain, but results in an abnormal head shape and abnormal facial features.[13] In cases in which the compensation does not effectively provide enough space for the growing brain, craniosynostosis results in increased intracranial pressure leading possibly to visual impairment, sleeping impairment, eating difficulties, or an impairment of mental development.[14]

A copper beaten skull is a phenomenon wherein intense intracranial pressure disfigures the internal surface of the skull.[15] The name comes from the fact that the inner skull has the appearance of having been beaten with a ball-peen hammer, such as is often used by coppersmiths. The condition is most common in children.

Injuries and treatment[edit]

Injuries to the brain can be life-threatening. Normally the skull protects the brain from damage through its hard unyieldingness; the skull is one of the least deformable structures found in nature with it needing the force of about 1 ton to reduce the diameter of the skull by 1 cm.[16] In some cases, however, of head injury, there can be raised intracranial pressure through mechanisms such as a subdural haematoma. In these cases the raised intracranial pressure can cause herniation of the brain out of the foramen magnum ("coning") because there is no space for the brain to expand; this can result in significant brain damage or death unless an urgent operation is performed to relieve the pressure. This is why patients with concussion must be watched extremely carefully.

Dating back to Neolithic times, a skull operation called trepanning was sometimes performed. This involved drilling a burr hole in the cranium. Examination of skulls from this period reveals that the patients sometimes survived for many years afterward. It seems likely that trepanning was also performed purely for ritualistic or religious reasons. Nowadays this procedure is still used but is normally called a craniectomy.

In March 2013, for the first time in the U.S., researchers replaced a large percentage of a patient's skull with a precision, 3D-printedpolymerimplant.[17] About 9 months later, the first complete cranium replacement with a 3D-printed plastic insert was performed on a Dutch woman. She had been suffering from hyperostosis, which increased the thickness of her skull and compressed her brain.[18]

A study conducted in 2018 by the researchers of Harvard Medical School in Boston, funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggested that instead of travelling via blood, there are "tiny channels" in the skull through which the immune cells combined with the bone marrow reach the areas of inflammation after an injury to the brain tissues.[19]

Transgender procedures[edit]

Surgical alteration of sexually dimorphic skull features may be carried out as a part of facial feminization surgery, a set of reconstructive surgical procedures that can alter male facial features to bring them closer in shape and size to typical female facial features.[20][21] These procedures can be an important part of the treatment of transgender people for gender dysphoria.[22][23]

Society and culture[edit]

A skull is the symbol of penance, Silk embroidery (17th century)

Artificial cranial deformation is a largely historical practice of some cultures. Cords and wooden boards would be used to apply pressure to an infant's skull and alter its shape, sometimes quite significantly. This procedure would begin just after birth and would be carried on for several years.[citation needed]

Osteology[edit]

Like the face, the skull and teeth can also indicate a person's life history and origin. Forensic scientists and archaeologists use metric and nonmetric traits to estimate what the bearer of the skull looked like. When a significant amount of bones are found, such as at Spitalfields in the UK and Jōmonshell mounds in Japan, osteologists can use traits, such as the proportions of length, height and width, to know the relationships of the population of the study with other living or extinct populations.[citation needed]

The German physician Franz Joseph Gall in around 1800 formulated the theory of phrenology, which attempted to show that specific features of the skull are associated with certain personality traits or intellectual capabilities of its owner. His theory is now considered to be pseudoscientific.[citation needed]

Sexual dimorphism[edit]

Main article: Sexual dimorphism

In the mid-nineteenth century, anthropologists found it crucial to distinguish between male and female skulls. An anthropologist of the time, James McGrigor Allan, argued that the female brain was similar to that of an animal.[24] This allowed anthropologists to declare that women were in fact more emotional and less rational than men. McGrigor then concluded that women's brains were more analogous to infants, thus deeming them inferior at the time.[24] To further these claims of female inferiority and silence the feminists of the time, other anthropologists joined in on the studies of the female skull. These cranial measurements are the basis of what is known as craniology. These cranial measurements were also used to draw a connection between women and black people.[24]

Research has shown that while in early life there is little difference between male and female skulls, in adulthood male skulls tend to be larger and more robust than female skulls, which are lighter and smaller, with a cranial capacity about 10 percent less than that of the male.[25] However, later studies show that women's skulls are slightly thicker and thus men may be more susceptible to head injury than women.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32] However, other studies shows that men skulls are slightly thicker in certain areas.[33][34] As well as some studies showing that females are more susceptible to head injury (concussion) than males.[35] Men's skulls have also been shown to maintain density with age, which may aid in preventing head injury, while women's skull density slightly decreases with age.[36][37]

Male skulls can have more prominent supraorbital ridges, a more prominent glabella, and more prominent temporal lines. Female skulls generally have rounder orbits, and narrower jaws. Male skulls on average have larger, broader palates, squarer orbits, larger mastoid processes, larger sinuses, and larger occipital condyles than those of females. Male mandibles typically have squarer chins and thicker, rougher muscle attachments than female mandibles.[citation needed]

Craniometry[edit]

The cephalic index is the ratio of the width of the head, multiplied by 100 and divided by its length (front to back). The index is also used to categorize animals, especially dogs and cats. The width is usually measured just below the parietal eminence, and the length from the glabella to the occipital point.

Humans may be:

  • Dolichocephalic — long-headed
  • Mesaticephalic — medium-headed
  • Brachycephalic — short-headed[11]

Terminology[edit]

History[edit]

Trepanning, a practice in which a hole is created in the skull, has been described as the oldest surgical procedure for which there is archaeological evidence,[38] found in the forms of cave paintings and human remains. At one burial site in France dated to 6500 BCE, 40 out of 120 prehistoric skulls found had trepanation holes.[39]

Additional images[edit]

See also[edit]

This article uses anatomical terminology.

References[edit]

Public domainThis article incorporates text in the public domain from page 128 of the 20th edition ofGray's Anatomy(1918)

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External links[edit]

Look up skull in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The facial skeleton of the skull

Maxilla
Zygomatic
Palatine
Mandible
Body
  • external surface (Chin, Jaw, Mandibular prominence, Mandibular symphysis, Lingual foramen, Mental protuberance, Mental foramen, Mandibular incisive canal)
  • internal surface (Mental spine, Mylohyoid line, Sublingual fovea, Submandibular fovea)
  • Alveolar part
Ramus
Nose
Other
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skull

Learning Objectives

  • List and identify the bones of the brain case and face
  • Locate the major suture lines of the skull and name the bones associated with each
  • Define the paranasal sinuses and identify the location of each
  • Identify the bones and structures that form the nasal septum and nasal conchae, and locate the hyoid bone
  • Identify the bony openings of the skull

The cranium (skull) is the skeletal structure of the head that supports the face and protects the brain. It is subdivided into thefacial bones and the brain case, or cranial vault (Figure 6.16). The facial bones underlie the facial structures, form the nasal cavity, enclose the eyeballs, and support the teeth of the upper and lower jaws. The rounded brain case surrounds and protects the brain and houses the middle and inner ear structures.

In the adult, the skull consists of 22 individual bones, 21 of which are immobile and united into a single unit. The 22nd bone is the mandible (lower jaw), which is the only moveable bone of the skull.

In this image, the lateral view of the human skull is shown and the brain case and facial bones are labeled.
Figure 6.16. Parts of the SkullThe skull consists of the rounded brain case that houses the brain and the facial bones that form the upper and lower jaws, nose, orbits, and other facial structures.

Interactive Link

Watch this video to view a rotating and exploded skull, with color-coded bones. Which bone (yellow) is centrally located and joins with most of the other bones of the skull?

Anterior View of Skull

The anterior skull consists of the facial bones and provides the bony support for the eyes and structures of the face. This view of the skull is dominated by the openings of the orbits and the nasal cavity. Also seen are the upper and lower jaws, with their respective teeth (Figure 6.17).

This image shows the anterior view (from the front) of the human skull. The major bones on the skull are labeled.
Figure 6.17. Anterior View of SkullAn anterior view of the skull shows the bones that form the forehead, orbits (eye sockets), nasal cavity, nasal septum, and upper and lower jaws.

Lateral View of Skull

A view of the lateral skull is dominated by the large, rounded brain case above and the upper and lower jaws with their teeth below (Figure 6.18).

 

This image shows the lateral view of the human skull and identifies the major parts.
Figure 6.18. Lateral View of SkullThe lateral skull shows the large rounded brain case, zygomatic arch, and the upper and lower jaws. The zygomatic arch is formed jointly by the zygomatic process of the temporal bone and the temporal process of the zygomatic bone. The shallow space above the zygomatic arch is the temporal fossa. The space inferior to the zygomatic arch and deep to the posterior mandible is the infratemporal fossa.

Bones of the Brain Case

The interior space that is almost completely occupied by the brain is called thecranial cavity. The bones that form the top and sides of the brain case are usually referred to as the “flat” bones of the skull. The brain case consists of eight bones. These include the paired parietal and temporal bones, plus the unpaired frontal, occipital, sphenoid, and ethmoid bones.

Parietal Bone

The parietal bone forms most of the upper lateral side of the skull (see Figure 6.18). These are paired bones, with the right and left parietal bones joining together at the top of the skull. Each parietal bone is also bounded anteriorly by the frontal bone, inferiorly by the temporal bone, and posteriorly by the occipital bone.

Temporal Bone

Thetemporal bone forms the lower lateral side of the skull (see Figure 6.18). Common wisdom has it that the temporal bone (temporal = “time”) is so named because this area of the head (the temple) is where hair typically first turns gray, indicating the passage of time.

The temporal bone is subdivided into several regions (Figure 6.19). The flattened, upper portion is the squamous portion of the temporal bone. Below this area and projecting anteriorly is the zygomatic process of the temporal bone, which forms the posterior portion of the zygomatic arch. Posteriorly is the mastoid portion of the temporal bone. Projecting inferiorly from this region is a large prominence, the mastoid process, which serves as a muscle attachment site. The mastoid process can easily be felt on the side of the head just behind your earlobe. Posterior to the mandibular fossa on the external base of the skull is an elongated, downward bony projection called the styloid process, so named because of its resemblance to a stylus (a pen or writing tool). This structure serves as an attachment site for several small muscles and for a ligament that supports the hyoid bone of the neck. (See also Figure 6.19.)

This image shows the location of the temporal bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the temporal bone highlighted in pink and a magnified view of this region then highlights the important parts of the temporal bone.
Figure 6.19. Temporal BoneA lateral view of the isolated temporal bone shows the squamous, mastoid, and zygomatic portions of the temporal bone.
This image shows the superior and inferior view of the skull base. In the top panel, the inferior view is shown. A small image of the skull shows the viewing direction on the left. In the inferior view, the maxilla and the associated bones are shown. In the bottom panel, the superior view shows the ethmoid and sphenoid bones and their subparts.
Figure 6.20. External and Internal Views of Base of Skull(a) The hard palate is formed anteriorly by the palatine processes of the maxilla bones and posteriorly by the horizontal plate of the palatine bones. (b) The complex floor of the cranial cavity is formed by the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid, temporal, and occipital bones. The lesser wing of the sphenoid bone separates the anterior and middle cranial fossae. The petrous ridge (petrous portion of temporal bone) separates the middle and posterior cranial fossae.

Frontal Bone

The frontal bone is the single bone that forms the forehead. At its anterior midline, between the eyebrows, there is a slight depression called the glabella (see Figure 6.17). The frontal bone also forms the supraorbital margin of the orbit. Near the middle of this margin, is the supraorbital foramen, the opening that provides passage for a sensory nerve to the forehead. The frontal bone is thickened just above each supraorbital margin, forming rounded brow ridges. These are located just behind your eyebrows and vary in size among individuals, although they are generally larger in males. Inside the cranial cavity, the frontal bone extends posteriorly. This flattened region forms both the roof of the orbit below and the floor of the anterior cranial cavity above (see Figure 6.20b).

Occipital Bone

The occipital bone is the single bone that forms the posterior skull and posterior base of the cranial cavity (Figure 6.21; see also Figure 6.20). On the base of the skull, the occipital bone contains the large opening of the foramen magnum, which allows for passage of the spinal cord as it exits the skull. On either side of the foramen magnum is an oval-shaped occipital condyle. These condyles form joints with the first cervical vertebra and thus support the skull on top of the vertebral column.

This figure shows the posterior view of the skull and the major parts are labeled.
Figure 6.21. Posterior View of SkullThis view of the posterior skull shows attachment sites for muscles and joints that support the skull.

Sphenoid Bone

The sphenoid bone is a single, complex bone of the central skull (Figure 6.22). It serves as a “keystone” bone, because it joins with almost every other bone of the skull. The sphenoid forms much of the base of the central skull and also extends laterally to contribute to the sides of the skull (see Figure 6.18). Inside the cranial cavity, the right and left lesser wings of the sphenoid bone, which resemble the wings of a flying bird, form the lip of a prominent ridge that marks the boundary between the anterior and middle cranial fossae. The sella turcica (“Turkish saddle”) is located at the midline of the middle cranial fossa. This bony region of the sphenoid bone is named for its resemblance to the horse saddles used by the Ottoman Turks, with a high back and a tall front. The rounded depression in the floor of the sella turcica is the hypophyseal (pituitary) fossa, which houses the pea-sized pituitary (hypophyseal) gland. The greater wings of the sphenoid bone extend laterally to either side away from the sella turcica, where they form the anterior floor of the middle cranial fossa. The greater wing is best seen on the outside of the lateral skull, where it forms a rectangular area immediately anterior to the squamous portion of the temporal bone.

On the inferior aspect of the skull, each half of the sphenoid bone forms two thin, vertically oriented bony plates. These are the medial pterygoid plate and lateral pterygoid plate (pterygoid = “wing-shaped”). The right and left medial pterygoid plates form the posterior, lateral walls of the nasal cavity. The somewhat larger lateral pterygoid plates serve as attachment sites for chewing muscles that fill the infratemporal space and act on the mandible.

This image shows the location and structure of the sphenoid bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the sphenoid bone highlighted in ochre yellow. The top panel shows the superior view of the sphenoid bone and the bottom panel shows the posterior view of the sphenoid bone.
Figure 6.22. Sphenoid BoneShown in isolation in (a) superior and (b) posterior views, the sphenoid bone is a single midline bone that forms the anterior walls and floor of the middle cranial fossa. It has a pair of lesser wings and a pair of greater wings. The sella turcica surrounds the hypophyseal fossa. Projecting downward are the medial and lateral pterygoid plates. The sphenoid has multiple openings for the passage of nerves and blood vessels, including the optic canal, superior orbital fissure, foramen rotundum, foramen ovale, and foramen spinosum.

Ethmoid Bone

The ethmoid bone is a single, midline bone that forms the roof and lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity, the upper portion of the nasal septum, and contributes to the medial wall of the orbit (Figure 6.23). On the interior of the skull, the ethmoid also forms a portion of the floor of the anterior cranial cavity.

Within the nasal cavity, the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone forms the upper portion of the nasal septum. The ethmoid bone also forms the lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity. Extending from each lateral wall are the superior nasal concha and middle nasal concha, which are thin, curved projections that extend into the nasal cavity (Figure 6.24).

In the cranial cavity, the ethmoid bone forms a small area at the midline in the floor of the anterior cranial fossa. This region also forms the narrow roof of the underlying nasal cavity. This portion of the ethmoid bone consists of two parts, the crista galli and cribriform plates. The crista galli (“rooster’s comb or crest”) is a small upward bony projection located at the midline. It functions as an anterior attachment point for one of the covering layers of the brain. To either side of the crista galli is the cribriform plate (cribrum = “sieve”), a small, flattened area with numerous small openings termed olfactory foramina. Small nerve branches from the olfactory areas of the nasal cavity pass through these openings to enter the brain.

This image shows the location and structure of the ethmoid bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the ethmoid bone colored in pink. A magnified image shows the inferior view of the ethmoid bone.
Figure 6.23. Ethmoid BoneThe unpaired ethmoid bone is located at the midline within the central skull. It has an upward projection, the crista galli, and a downward projection, the perpendicular plate, which forms the upper nasal septum. The cribriform plates form both the roof of the nasal cavity and a portion of the anterior cranial fossa floor. The lateral sides of the ethmoid bone form the lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity, part of the medial orbit wall, and give rise to the superior and middle nasal conchae. The ethmoid bone also contains the ethmoid air cells.
This figure shows the structure of the nasal cavity. A lateral view of the human skull is shown on the top left with the nasal cavity highlighted in purple. A magnified view of the nasal cavity shows the various bones present and their location.
Figure 6.24. Lateral Wall of Nasal CavityThe three nasal conchae are curved bones that project from the lateral walls of the nasal cavity. The superior nasal concha and middle nasal concha are parts of the ethmoid bone. The inferior nasal concha is an independent bone of the skull.

Sutures of the Skull

suture is an immobile joint between adjacent bones of the skull. The narrow gap between the bones is filled with dense, fibrous connective tissue that unites the bones. The long sutures located between the bones of the brain case are not straight, but instead follow irregular, tightly twisting paths. These twisting lines serve to tightly interlock the adjacent bones, thus adding strength to the skull for brain protection.

The two suture lines seen on the top of the skull are the coronal and sagittal sutures. The coronal suture runs from side to side across the skull, within the coronal plane of section (see Figure 6.18). It joins the frontal bone to the right and left parietal bones. The sagittal suture extends posteriorly from the coronal suture, running along the midline at the top of the skull in the sagittal plane of section (see Figure 6.21). It unites the right and left parietal bones. On the posterior skull, the sagittal suture terminates by joining the lambdoid suture. The lambdoid suture extends downward and laterally to either side away from its junction with the sagittal suture. The lambdoid suture joins the occipital bone to the right and left parietal and temporal bones. This suture is named for its upside-down “V” shape, which resembles the capital letter version of the Greek letter lambda (Λ). The squamous suture is located on the lateral skull. It unites the squamous portion of the temporal bone with the parietal bone (see Figure 6.18).

Facial Bones of the Skull

The facial bones of the skull form the upper and lower jaws, the nose, nasal cavity and nasal septum, and the orbit. The facial bones include 14 bones, with six paired bones and two unpaired bones. The paired bones are the maxilla, palatine, zygomatic, nasal, lacrimal, and inferior nasal conchae bones. The unpaired bones are the vomer and mandible bones. Although classified with the brain-case bones, the ethmoid bone also contributes to the nasal septum and the walls of the nasal cavity and orbit.

Maxillary Bone

The maxillary bone, often referred to simply as the maxilla (plural = maxillae), is one of a pair that together form the upper jaw, much of the hard palate, the medial floor of the orbit, and the lateral base of the nose (see Figure 6.18). The curved, inferior margin of the maxillary bone that forms the upper jaw and contains the upper teeth is the alveolar process of the maxilla (Figure 6.25). Each tooth is anchored into a deep socket called an alveolus. On the anterior maxilla, just below the orbit, is the infraorbital foramen. This is the point of exit for a sensory nerve that supplies the nose, upper lip, and anterior cheek. On the inferior skull, the palatine process from each maxillary bone can be seen joining together at the midline to form the anterior three-quarters of the hard palate (see Figure 6.20a). The hard palate is the bony plate that forms the roof of the mouth and floor of the nasal cavity, separating the oral and nasal cavities.

This image shows the location and structure of the maxilla. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the maxilla in ochre yellow. A magnified view shows the detailed structure of the maxilla.
Figure 6.25. Maxillary BoneThe maxillary bone forms the upper jaw and supports the upper teeth. Each maxilla also forms the lateral floor of each orbit and the majority of the hard palate.

Palatine Bone

The palatine bone is one of a pair of irregularly shaped bones that contribute small areas to the lateral walls of the nasal cavity and the medial wall of each orbit. The largest region of each of the palatine bone is the horizontal plate. The plates from the right and left palatine bones join together at the midline to form the posterior quarter of the hard palate (see Figure 6.20a). Thus, the palatine bones are best seen in an inferior view of the skull and hard palate.

Homeostatic Imbalances: Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

During embryonic development, the right and left maxilla bones come together at the midline to form the upper jaw. At the same time, the muscle and skin overlying these bones join together to form the upper lip. Inside the mouth, the palatine processes of the maxilla bones, along with the horizontal plates of the right and left palatine bones, join together to form the hard palate. If an error occurs in these developmental processes, a birth defect of cleft lip or cleft palate may result.

Cleft lip is a common development defect that affects approximately 1:1000 births, most of which are male. This defect involves a partial or complete failure of the right and left portions of the upper lip to fuse together, leaving a cleft (gap).

A more severe developmental defect is cleft palate, which affects the hard palate. The hard palate is the bony structure that separates the nasal cavity from the oral cavity. It is formed during embryonic development by the midline fusion of the horizontal plates from the right and left palatine bones and the palatine processes of the maxilla bones. Cleft palate affects approximately 1:2500 births and is more common in females. It results from a failure of the two halves of the hard palate to completely come together and fuse at the midline, thus leaving a gap between them. This gap allows for communication between the nasal and oral cavities. In severe cases, the bony gap continues into the anterior upper jaw where the alveolar processes of the maxilla bones also do not properly join together above the front teeth. If this occurs, a cleft lip will also be seen. Because of the communication between the oral and nasal cavities, a cleft palate makes it very difficult for an infant to generate the suckling needed for nursing, thus leaving the infant at risk for malnutrition. Surgical repair is required to correct cleft palate defects.

Zygomatic Bone

The zygomatic bone is also known as the cheekbone. Each of the paired zygomatic bones forms much of the lateral wall of the orbit and the lateral-inferior margins of the anterior orbital opening (see Figure 6.17). The short temporal process of the zygomatic bone projects posteriorly, where it forms the anterior portion of the zygomatic arch (see Figure 6.18).

Nasal Bone

Thenasal bone is one of two small bones that articulate (join) with each other to form the bony base (bridge) of the nose. They also support the cartilages that form the lateral walls of the nose (see Figure 6.17). These are the bones that are damaged when the nose is broken.

Lacrimal Bone

Eachlacrimal bone is a small, rectangular bone that forms the anterior, medial wall of the orbit (see Figure 6.17 and Figure 6.18). The anterior portion of the lacrimal bone forms a shallow depression called the lacrimal fossa, and extending inferiorly from this is the nasolacrimal canal. The lacrimal fluid (tears of the eye), which serves to maintain the moist surface of the eye, drains at the medial corner of the eye into the nasolacrimal canal. This duct then extends downward to open into the nasal cavity, behind the inferior nasal concha. In the nasal cavity, the lacrimal fluid normally drains posteriorly, but with an increased flow of tears due to crying or eye irritation, some fluid will also drain anteriorly, thus causing a runny nose.

Inferior Nasal Conchae

The right and left inferior nasal conchae form a curved bony plate that projects into the nasal cavity space from the lower lateral wall (see Figure 6.17). The inferior concha is the largest of the nasal conchae and can easily be seen when looking into the anterior opening of the nasal cavity.

Vomer Bone

The unpaired vomer bone, often referred to simply as the vomer, is triangular-shaped and forms the posterior-inferior part of the nasal septum (see Figure 6.17). The vomer is best seen when looking from behind into the posterior openings of the nasal cavity (see Figure 6.20a). In this view, the vomer is seen to form the entire height of the nasal septum. A much smaller portion of the vomer can also be seen when looking into the anterior opening of the nasal cavity.

Mandible

The mandible forms the lower jaw and is the only moveable bone of the skull. At the time of birth, the mandible consists of paired right and left bones, but these fuse together during the first year to form the single U-shaped mandible of the adult skull. Each side of the mandible consists of a horizontal body and posteriorly, a vertically oriented ramus of the mandible (ramus = “branch”). The outside margin of the mandible, where the body and ramus come together is called the angle of the mandible (Figure 6.27).

The ramus on each side of the mandible has two upward-going bony projections. The more anterior projection is the flattened coronoid process of the mandible, which provides attachment for one of the biting muscles. The posterior projection is the condylar process of the mandible, which is topped by the oval-shaped condyle. The condyle of the mandible articulates (joins) with the mandibular fossa and articular tubercle of the temporal bone. Together these articulations form the temporomandibular joint, which allows for opening and closing of the mouth (see Figure 6.18). The broad U-shaped curve located between the coronoid and condylar processes is the mandibular notch.

Important landmarks for the mandible include the following:

  • Alveolar process of the mandible—This is the upper border of the mandibular body and serves to anchor the lower teeth.
  • Mental protuberance—The forward projection from the inferior margin of the anterior mandible that forms the chin (mental = “chin”).
  • Mental foramen—The opening located on each side of the anterior-lateral mandible, which is the exit site for a sensory nerve that supplies the chin.
  • Mandibular foramen—This opening is located on the medial side of the ramus of the mandible. The opening leads into a tunnel that runs down the length of the mandibular body. The sensory nerve and blood vessels that supply the lower teeth enter the mandibular foramen and then follow this tunnel. Thus, to numb the lower teeth prior to dental work, the dentist must inject anesthesia into the lateral wall of the oral cavity at a point prior to where this sensory nerve enters the mandibular foramen.
This image shows the structure of the mandible. On the top left, a lateral view of the skull shows the location of the mandible in purple. A magnified image shows the right lateral view of the mandible with the major parts labeled.
Figure 6.26. Isolated MandibleThe mandible is the only moveable bone of the skull.

Paranasal Sinuses

The paranasal sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces located within certain bones of the skull (Figure 6.27). All of the sinuses communicate with the nasal cavity (paranasal = “next to nasal cavity”) and are lined with nasal mucosa. They serve to reduce bone mass and thus lighten the skull, and they also add resonance to the voice. This second feature is most obvious when you have a cold or sinus congestion. These produce swelling of the mucosa and excess mucus production, which can obstruct the narrow passageways between the sinuses and the nasal cavity, causing your voice to sound different to yourself and others. This blockage can also allow the sinuses to fill with fluid, with the resulting pressure producing pain and discomfort.

The paranasal sinuses are named for the skull bone that each occupies. The frontal sinus is located just above the eyebrows, within the frontal bone (see Figure 6.27). This irregular space may be divided at the midline into bilateral spaces, or these may be fused into a single sinus space. The frontal sinus is the most anterior of the paranasal sinuses. The largest sinus is the maxillary sinus. These are paired and located within the right and left maxillary bones, where they occupy the area just below the orbits. The maxillary sinuses are most commonly involved during sinus infections. Because their connection to the nasal cavity is located high on their medial wall, they are difficult to drain. The sphenoid sinus is a single, midline sinus. It is located within the body of the sphenoid bone, just anterior and inferior to the sella turcica, thus making it the most posterior of the paranasal sinuses. The lateral aspects of the ethmoid bone contain multiple small spaces separated by very thin bony walls. Each of these spaces is called an ethmoid air cell. These are located on both sides of the ethmoid bone, between the upper nasal cavity and medial orbit, just behind the superior nasal conchae.

This figure shows a woman’s face and the location of the paranasal sinuses. The left panel shows the anterior view of the woman’s face with the sinuses labeled. The right panel shows the lateral view of the woman’s face with the same parts labeled.
Figure 6.27. Paranasal SinusesThe paranasal sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces named for the skull bone that each occupies. The most anterior is the frontal sinus, located in the frontal bone above the eyebrows. The largest are the maxillary sinuses, located in the right and left maxillary bones below the orbits. The most posterior is the sphenoid sinus, located in the body of the sphenoid bone, under the sella turcica. The ethmoid air cells are multiple small spaces located in the right and left sides of the ethmoid bone, between the medial wall of the orbit and lateral wall of the upper nasal cavity.

Hyoid Bone

The hyoid bone is an independent bone that does not contact any other bone and thus is not part of the skull (Figure 6.28). It is a small U-shaped bone located in the upper neck near the level of the inferior mandible, with the tips of the “U” pointing posteriorly. The hyoid serves as the base for the tongue above, and is attached to the larynx below and the pharynx posteriorly. The hyoid is held in position by a series of small muscles that attach to it either from above or below. These muscles act to move the hyoid up/down or forward/back. Movements of the hyoid are coordinated with movements of the tongue, larynx, and pharynx during swallowing and speaking.

In this image, the location and structure of the hyoid bone are shown. The top panel shows a person’s face and neck, with the hyoid bone highlighted in grey. The middle panel shows the anterior view and the bottom panel shows the right anterior view.
Figure 6.28. Hyoid BoneThe hyoid bone is located in the upper neck and does not join with any other bone. It provides attachments for muscles that act on the tongue, larynx, and pharynx.
Sours: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/nemcc-ap/chapter/the-skull/
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Learning Objectives

  • List and identify the bones of the brain case and face
  • Locate the major suture lines of the skull and name the bones associated with each
  • Locate and define the boundaries of the anterior, middle, and posterior cranial fossae, the temporal fossa, and infratemporal fossa
  • Define the paranasal sinuses and identify the location of each
  • Name the bones that make up the walls of the orbit and identify the openings associated with the orbit
  • Identify the bones and structures that form the nasal septum and nasal conchae, and locate the hyoid bone
  • Identify the bony openings of the skull

The cranium (skull) is the skeletal structure of the head that supports the face and protects the brain. It is subdivided into the facial bones and the brain case, or cranial vault (Figure 1). The facial bones underlie the facial structures, form the nasal cavity, enclose the eyeballs, and support the teeth of the upper and lower jaws. The rounded brain case surrounds and protects the brain and houses the middle and inner ear structures.

In the adult, the skull consists of 22 individual bones, 21 of which are immobile and united into a single unit. The 22nd bone is the mandible (lower jaw), which is the only moveable bone of the skull.

In this image, the lateral view of the human skull is shown and the brain case and facial bones are labeled.

Figure 1. Parts of the Skull. The skull consists of the rounded brain case that houses the brain and the facial bones that form the upper and lower jaws, nose, orbits, and other facial structures.

Watch this video to view a rotating and exploded skull, with color-coded bones. Which bone (yellow) is centrally located and joins with most of the other bones of the skull?

Anterior View of Skull

The anterior skull consists of the facial bones and provides the bony support for the eyes and structures of the face. This view of the skull is dominated by the openings of the orbits and the nasal cavity. Also seen are the upper and lower jaws, with their respective teeth (Figure 2).

The orbit is the bony socket that houses the eyeball and muscles that move the eyeball or open the upper eyelid. The upper margin of the anterior orbit is the supraorbital margin. Located near the midpoint of the supraorbital margin is a small opening called the supraorbital foramen. This provides for passage of a sensory nerve to the skin of the forehead. Below the orbit is the infraorbital foramen, which is the point of emergence for a sensory nerve that supplies the anterior face below the orbit.

This image shows the anterior view (from the front) of the human skull. The major bones on the skull are labeled.

Figure 2. Anterior View of Skull. An anterior view of the skull shows the bones that form the forehead, orbits (eye sockets), nasal cavity, nasal septum, and upper and lower jaws.

Inside the nasal area of the skull, the nasal cavity is divided into halves by the nasal septum. The upper portion of the nasal septum is formed by the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone and the lower portion is the vomer bone. Each side of the nasal cavity is triangular in shape, with a broad inferior space that narrows superiorly. When looking into the nasal cavity from the front of the skull, two bony plates are seen projecting from each lateral wall. The larger of these is the inferior nasal concha, an independent bone of the skull. Located just above the inferior concha is the middle nasal concha, which is part of the ethmoid bone. A third bony plate, also part of the ethmoid bone, is the superior nasal concha. It is much smaller and out of sight, above the middle concha. The superior nasal concha is located just lateral to the perpendicular plate, in the upper nasal cavity.

Lateral View of Skull

A view of the lateral skull is dominated by the large, rounded brain case above and the upper and lower jaws with their teeth below (Figure 3). Separating these areas is the bridge of bone called the zygomatic arch. The zygomatic arch is the bony arch on the side of skull that spans from the area of the cheek to just above the ear canal. It is formed by the junction of two bony processes: a short anterior component, the temporal process of the zygomatic bone (the cheekbone) and a longer posterior portion, the zygomatic process of the temporal bone, extending forward from the temporal bone. Thus the temporal process (anteriorly) and the zygomatic process (posteriorly) join together, like the two ends of a drawbridge, to form the zygomatic arch. One of the major muscles that pulls the mandible upward during biting and chewing arises from the zygomatic arch.

On the lateral side of the brain case, above the level of the zygomatic arch, is a shallow space called the temporal fossa. Below the level of the zygomatic arch and deep to the vertical portion of the mandible is another space called theinfratemporal fossa. Both the temporal fossa and infratemporal fossa contain muscles that act on the mandible during chewing.

This image shows the lateral view of the human skull and identifies the major parts.

Figure 3. Lateral View of Skull. The lateral skull shows the large rounded brain case, zygomatic arch, and the upper and lower jaws. The zygomatic arch is formed jointly by the zygomatic process of the temporal bone and the temporal process of the zygomatic bone. The shallow space above the zygomatic arch is the temporal fossa. The space inferior to the zygomatic arch and deep to the posterior mandible is the infratemporal fossa.

Bones of the Brain Case

The brain case contains and protects the brain. The interior space that is almost completely occupied by the brain is called the cranial cavity. This cavity is bounded superiorly by the rounded top of the skull, which is called the calvaria (skullcap), and the lateral and posterior sides of the skull. The bones that form the top and sides of the brain case are usually referred to as the “flat” bones of the skull.

The floor of the brain case is referred to as the base of the skull. This is a complex area that varies in depth and has numerous openings for the passage of cranial nerves, blood vessels, and the spinal cord. Inside the skull, the base is subdivided into three large spaces, called the anterior cranial fossamiddle cranial fossa, and posterior cranial fossa (fossa = “trench or ditch”) (Figure 4). From anterior to posterior, the fossae increase in depth. The shape and depth of each fossa corresponds to the shape and size of the brain region that each houses. The boundaries and openings of the cranial fossae (singular = fossa) will be described in a later section.

This figure shows the structure of the cranial fossae. The top panel shows the superior view and the bottom panel shows the lateral view. In both panels, the major parts are labeled.

Figure 4. Cranial Fossae. The bones of the brain case surround and protect the brain, which occupies the cranial cavity. The base of the brain case, which forms the floor of cranial cavity, is subdivided into the shallow anterior cranial fossa, the middle cranial fossa, and the deep posterior cranial fossa.

The brain case consists of eight bones. These include the paired parietal and temporal bones, plus the unpaired frontal, occipital, sphenoid, and ethmoid bones.

Parietal Bone

The parietal bone forms most of the upper lateral side of the skull (see Figure 3). These are paired bones, with the right and left parietal bones joining together at the top of the skull. Each parietal bone is also bounded anteriorly by the frontal bone, inferiorly by the temporal bone, and posteriorly by the occipital bone.

Temporal Bone

This image shows the location of the temporal bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the temporal bone highlighted in pink and a magnified view of this region then highlights the important parts of the temporal bone.

Figure 5. Temporal Bone. A lateral view of the isolated temporal bone shows the squamous, mastoid, and zygomatic portions of the temporal bone.

The temporal bone forms the lower lateral side of the skull (see Figure 3). Common wisdom has it that the temporal bone (temporal = “time”) is so named because this area of the head (the temple) is where hair typically first turns gray, indicating the passage of time.

The temporal bone is subdivided into several regions (Figure 5). The flattened, upper portion is the squamous portion of the temporal bone. Below this area and projecting anteriorly is the zygomatic process of the temporal bone, which forms the posterior portion of the zygomatic arch. Posteriorly is the mastoid portion of the temporal bone. Projecting inferiorly from this region is a large prominence, the mastoid process, which serves as a muscle attachment site. The mastoid process can easily be felt on the side of the head just behind your earlobe. On the interior of the skull, the petrous portion of each temporal bone forms the prominent, diagonally oriented petrous ridge in the floor of the cranial cavity. Located inside each petrous ridge are small cavities that house the structures of the middle and inner ears.

Important landmarks of the temporal bone, as shown in Figure 6, include the following:

  • External acoustic meatus (ear canal)—This is the large opening on the lateral side of the skull that is associated with the ear.
  • Internal acoustic meatus—This opening is located inside the cranial cavity, on the medial side of the petrous ridge. It connects to the middle and inner ear cavities of the temporal bone.
  • Mandibular fossa—This is the deep, oval-shaped depression located on the external base of the skull, just in front of the external acoustic meatus. The mandible (lower jaw) joins with the skull at this site as part of the temporomandibular joint, which allows for movements of the mandible during opening and closing of the mouth.
  • Articular tubercle—The smooth ridge located immediately anterior to the mandibular fossa. Both the articular tubercle and mandibular fossa contribute to the temporomandibular joint, the joint that provides for movements between the temporal bone of the skull and the mandible.
  • Styloid process—Posterior to the mandibular fossa on the external base of the skull is an elongated, downward bony projection called the styloid process, so named because of its resemblance to a stylus (a pen or writing tool). This structure serves as an attachment site for several small muscles and for a ligament that supports the hyoid bone of the neck. (See also Figure 5.)
  • Stylomastoid foramen—This small opening is located between the styloid process and mastoid process. This is the point of exit for the cranial nerve that supplies the facial muscles.
  • Carotid canal—The carotid canal is a zig-zag shaped tunnel that provides passage through the base of the skull for one of the major arteries that supplies the brain. Its entrance is located on the outside base of the skull, anteromedial to the styloid process. The canal then runs anteromedially within the bony base of the skull, and then turns upward to its exit in the floor of the middle cranial cavity, above the foramen lacerum.
This image shows the superior and inferior view of the skull base. In the top panel, the inferior view is shown. A small image of the skull shows the viewing direction on the left. In the inferior view, the maxilla and the associated bones are shown. In the bottom panel, the superior view shows the ethmoid and sphenoid bones and their subparts.

Figure 6. External and Internal Views of Base of Skull. Click for a larger image. (a) The hard palate is formed anteriorly by the palatine processes of the maxilla bones and posteriorly by the horizontal plate of the palatine bones. (b) The complex floor of the cranial cavity is formed by the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid, temporal, and occipital bones. The lesser wing of the sphenoid bone separates the anterior and middle cranial fossae. The petrous ridge (petrous portion of temporal bone) separates the middle and posterior cranial fossae.

Frontal Bone

The frontal bone is the single bone that forms the forehead. At its anterior midline, between the eyebrows, there is a slight depression called the glabella (see Figure 3). The frontal bone also forms the supraorbital margin of the orbit. Near the middle of this margin, is the supraorbital foramen, the opening that provides passage for a sensory nerve to the forehead. The frontal bone is thickened just above each supraorbital margin, forming rounded brow ridges. These are located just behind your eyebrows and vary in size among individuals, although they are generally larger in males. Inside the cranial cavity, the frontal bone extends posteriorly. This flattened region forms both the roof of the orbit below and the floor of the anterior cranial cavity above (see Figure 6b).

Occipital Bone

The occipital bone is the single bone that forms the posterior skull and posterior base of the cranial cavity (Figure 7; see also Figure 6). On its outside surface, at the posterior midline, is a small protrusion called the external occipital protuberance, which serves as an attachment site for a ligament of the posterior neck. Lateral to either side of this bump is a superior nuchal line (nuchal = “nape” or “posterior neck”). The nuchal lines represent the most superior point at which muscles of the neck attach to the skull, with only the scalp covering the skull above these lines. On the base of the skull, the occipital bone contains the large opening of the foramen magnum, which allows for passage of the spinal cord as it exits the skull. On either side of the foramen magnum is an oval-shaped occipital condyle. These condyles form joints with the first cervical vertebra and thus support the skull on top of the vertebral column.

This figure shows the posterior view of the skull and the major parts are labeled.

Figure 7. Posterior View of Skull. This view of the posterior skull shows attachment sites for muscles and joints that support the skull.

Sphenoid Bone

The sphenoid bone is a single, complex bone of the central skull (Figure 8). It serves as a “keystone” bone, because it joins with almost every other bone of the skull. The sphenoid forms much of the base of the central skull (see Figure 6) and also extends laterally to contribute to the sides of the skull (see Figure 3). Inside the cranial cavity, the right and left lesser wings of the sphenoid bone, which resemble the wings of a flying bird, form the lip of a prominent ridge that marks the boundary between the anterior and middle cranial fossae. The sella turcica (“Turkish saddle”) is located at the midline of the middle cranial fossa. This bony region of the sphenoid bone is named for its resemblance to the horse saddles used by the Ottoman Turks, with a high back and a tall front. The rounded depression in the floor of the sella turcica is the hypophyseal (pituitary) fossa, which houses the pea-sized pituitary (hypophyseal) gland. The greater wings of the sphenoid bone extend laterally to either side away from the sella turcica, where they form the anterior floor of the middle cranial fossa. The greater wing is best seen on the outside of the lateral skull, where it forms a rectangular area immediately anterior to the squamous portion of the temporal bone.

On the inferior aspect of the skull, each half of the sphenoid bone forms two thin, vertically oriented bony plates. These are the medial pterygoid plate and lateral pterygoid plate (pterygoid = “wing-shaped”). The right and left medial pterygoid plates form the posterior, lateral walls of the nasal cavity. The somewhat larger lateral pterygoid plates serve as attachment sites for chewing muscles that fill the infratemporal space and act on the mandible.

This image shows the location and structure of the sphenoid bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the sphenoid bone highlighted in ochre yellow. The top panel shows the superior view of the sphenoid bone and the bottom panel shows the posterior view of the sphenoid bone.

Figure 8. Sphenoid Bone. Shown in isolation in (a) superior and (b) posterior views, the sphenoid bone is a single midline bone that forms the anterior walls and floor of the middle cranial fossa. It has a pair of lesser wings and a pair of greater wings. The sella turcica surrounds the hypophyseal fossa. Projecting downward are the medial and lateral pterygoid plates. The sphenoid has multiple openings for the passage of nerves and blood vessels, including the optic canal, superior orbital fissure, foramen rotundum, foramen ovale, and foramen spinosum.

Ethmoid Bone

The ethmoid bone is a single, midline bone that forms the roof and lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity, the upper portion of the nasal septum, and contributes to the medial wall of the orbit (Figure 9 and Figure 10). On the interior of the skull, the ethmoid also forms a portion of the floor of the anterior cranial cavity (see Figure 6b).

This diagram shows the sagittal section of the skull and identifies the major bones and cavities.

Figure 9. Sagittal Section of Skull. This midline view of the sagittally sectioned skull shows the nasal septum.

This image shows the location and structure of the ethmoid bone. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the ethmoid bone colored in pink. A magnified image shows the inferior view of the ethmoid bone.

Figure 10. Ethmoid Bone. The unpaired ethmoid bone is located at the midline within the central skull. It has an upward projection, the crista galli, and a downward projection, the perpendicular plate, which forms the upper nasal septum. The cribriform plates form both the roof of the nasal cavity and a portion of the anterior cranial fossa floor. The lateral sides of the ethmoid bone form the lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity, part of the medial orbit wall, and give rise to the superior and middle nasal conchae. The ethmoid bone also contains the ethmoid air cells.

Within the nasal cavity, the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone forms the upper portion of the nasal septum. The ethmoid bone also forms the lateral walls of the upper nasal cavity. Extending from each lateral wall are the superior nasal concha and middle nasal concha, which are thin, curved projections that extend into the nasal cavity (Figure 11).

In the cranial cavity, the ethmoid bone forms a small area at the midline in the floor of the anterior cranial fossa. This region also forms the narrow roof of the underlying nasal cavity. This portion of the ethmoid bone consists of two parts, the crista galli and cribriform plates. The crista galli (“rooster’s comb or crest”) is a small upward bony projection located at the midline. It functions as an anterior attachment point for one of the covering layers of the brain. To either side of the crista galli is the cribriform plate (cribrum = “sieve”), a small, flattened area with numerous small openings termed olfactory foramina. Small nerve branches from the olfactory areas of the nasal cavity pass through these openings to enter the brain.

This figure shows the structure of the nasal cavity. A lateral view of the human skull is shown on the top left with the nasal cavity highlighted in purple. A magnified view of the nasal cavity shows the various bones present and their location.

Figure 11. Lateral Wall of Nasal Cavity. The three nasal conchae are curved bones that project from the lateral walls of the nasal cavity. The superior nasal concha and middle nasal concha are parts of the ethmoid bone. The inferior nasal concha is an independent bone of the skull.

The lateral portions of the ethmoid bone are located between the orbit and upper nasal cavity, and thus form the lateral nasal cavity wall and a portion of the medial orbit wall. Located inside this portion of the ethmoid bone are several small, air-filled spaces that are part of the paranasal sinus system of the skull.

Sutures of the Skull

suture is an immobile joint between adjacent bones of the skull. The narrow gap between the bones is filled with dense, fibrous connective tissue that unites the bones. The long sutures located between the bones of the brain case are not straight, but instead follow irregular, tightly twisting paths. These twisting lines serve to tightly interlock the adjacent bones, thus adding strength to the skull for brain protection.

The two suture lines seen on the top of the skull are the coronal and sagittal sutures. The coronal suture runs from side to side across the skull, within the coronal plane of section (see Figure 3). It joins the frontal bone to the right and left parietal bones. The sagittal suture extends posteriorly from the coronal suture, running along the midline at the top of the skull in the sagittal plane of section (see Figure 7). It unites the right and left parietal bones. On the posterior skull, the sagittal suture terminates by joining the lambdoid suture. The lambdoid suture extends downward and laterally to either side away from its junction with the sagittal suture. The lambdoid suture joins the occipital bone to the right and left parietal and temporal bones. This suture is named for its upside-down “V” shape, which resembles the capital letter version of the Greek letter lambda (Λ). The squamous suture is located on the lateral skull. It unites the squamous portion of the temporal bone with the parietal bone (see Figure 3). At the intersection of four bones is the pterion, a small, capital-H-shaped suture line region that unites the frontal bone, parietal bone, squamous portion of the temporal bone, and greater wing of the sphenoid bone. It is the weakest part of the skull. The pterion is located approximately two finger widths above the zygomatic arch and a thumb’s width posterior to the upward portion of the zygomatic bone.

Disorders of the Skeletal System

Head and traumatic brain injuries are major causes of immediate death and disability, with bleeding and infections as possible additional complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), approximately 30 percent of all injury-related deaths in the United States are caused by head injuries. The majority of head injuries involve falls. They are most common among young children (ages 0–4 years), adolescents (15–19 years), and the elderly (over 65 years). Additional causes vary, but prominent among these are automobile and motorcycle accidents.

Strong blows to the brain-case portion of the skull can produce fractures. These may result in bleeding inside the skull with subsequent injury to the brain. The most common is a linear skull fracture, in which fracture lines radiate from the point of impact. Other fracture types include a comminuted fracture, in which the bone is broken into several pieces at the point of impact, or a depressed fracture, in which the fractured bone is pushed inward. In a contrecoup (counterblow) fracture, the bone at the point of impact is not broken, but instead a fracture occurs on the opposite side of the skull. Fractures of the occipital bone at the base of the skull can occur in this manner, producing a basilar fracture that can damage the artery that passes through the carotid canal.

A blow to the lateral side of the head may fracture the bones of the pterion. The pterion is an important clinical landmark because located immediately deep to it on the inside of the skull is a major branch of an artery that supplies the skull and covering layers of the brain. A strong blow to this region can fracture the bones around the pterion. If the underlying artery is damaged, bleeding can cause the formation of a hematoma (collection of blood) between the brain and interior of the skull. As blood accumulates, it will put pressure on the brain. Symptoms associated with a hematoma may not be apparent immediately following the injury, but if untreated, blood accumulation will exert increasing pressure on the brain and can result in death within a few hours.

Facial Bones of the Skull

The facial bones of the skull form the upper and lower jaws, the nose, nasal cavity and nasal septum, and the orbit. The facial bones include 14 bones, with six paired bones and two unpaired bones. The paired bones are the maxilla, palatine, zygomatic, nasal, lacrimal, and inferior nasal conchae bones. The unpaired bones are the vomer and mandible bones. Although classified with the brain-case bones, the ethmoid bone also contributes to the nasal septum and the walls of the nasal cavity and orbit.

Maxillary Bone

This image shows the location and structure of the maxilla. A small image of the skull on the top left shows the maxilla in ochre yellow. A magnified view shows the detailed structure of the maxilla.

Figure 12. Maxillary Bone. The maxillary bone forms the upper jaw and supports the upper teeth. Each maxilla also forms the lateral floor of each orbit and the majority of the hard palate.

The maxillary bone, often referred to simply as the maxilla (plural = maxillae), is one of a pair that together form the upper jaw, much of the hard palate, the medial floor of the orbit, and the lateral base of the nose (see Figure 2). The curved, inferior margin of the maxillary bone that forms the upper jaw and contains the upper teeth is the alveolar process of the maxilla (Figure 12). Each tooth is anchored into a deep socket called an alveolus. On the anterior maxilla, just below the orbit, is the infraorbital foramen. This is the point of exit for a sensory nerve that supplies the nose, upper lip, and anterior cheek. On the inferior skull, the palatine process from each maxillary bone can be seen joining together at the midline to form the anterior three-quarters of the hard palate (see Figure 6a). The hard palate is the bony plate that forms the roof of the mouth and floor of the nasal cavity, separating the oral and nasal cavities.

Palatine Bone

The palatine bone is one of a pair of irregularly shaped bones that contribute small areas to the lateral walls of the nasal cavity and the medial wall of each orbit. The largest region of each of the palatine bone is the horizontal plate. The plates from the right and left palatine bones join together at the midline to form the posterior quarter of the hard palate (see Figure 6a). Thus, the palatine bones are best seen in an inferior view of the skull and hard palate.

Homeostatic Imbalances: Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

During embryonic development, the right and left maxilla bones come together at the midline to form the upper jaw. At the same time, the muscle and skin overlying these bones join together to form the upper lip. Inside the mouth, the palatine processes of the maxilla bones, along with the horizontal plates of the right and left palatine bones, join together to form the hard palate. If an error occurs in these developmental processes, a birth defect of cleft lip or cleft palate may result.

Cleft lip is a common development defect that affects approximately 1:1000 births, most of which are male. This defect involves a partial or complete failure of the right and left portions of the upper lip to fuse together, leaving a cleft (gap).

A more severe developmental defect is cleft palate, which affects the hard palate. The hard palate is the bony structure that separates the nasal cavity from the oral cavity. It is formed during embryonic development by the midline fusion of the horizontal plates from the right and left palatine bones and the palatine processes of the maxilla bones. Cleft palate affects approximately 1:2500 births and is more common in females. It results from a failure of the two halves of the hard palate to completely come together and fuse at the midline, thus leaving a gap between them. This gap allows for communication between the nasal and oral cavities. In severe cases, the bony gap continues into the anterior upper jaw where the alveolar processes of the maxilla bones also do not properly join together above the front teeth. If this occurs, a cleft lip will also be seen. Because of the communication between the oral and nasal cavities, a cleft palate makes it very difficult for an infant to generate the suckling needed for nursing, thus leaving the infant at risk for malnutrition. Surgical repair is required to correct cleft palate defects.

Zygomatic Bone

The zygomatic bone is also known as the cheekbone. Each of the paired zygomatic bones forms much of the lateral wall of the orbit and the lateral-inferior margins of the anterior orbital opening (see Figure 2). The short temporal process of the zygomatic bone projects posteriorly, where it forms the anterior portion of the zygomatic arch (see Figure 3).

Nasal Bone

The nasal bone is one of two small bones that articulate (join) with each other to form the bony base (bridge) of the nose. They also support the cartilages that form the lateral walls of the nose (see Figure 9). These are the bones that are damaged when the nose is broken.

Lacrimal Bone

Each lacrimal bone is a small, rectangular bone that forms the anterior, medial wall of the orbit (see Figure 2 and Figure 3). The anterior portion of the lacrimal bone forms a shallow depression called the lacrimal fossa, and extending inferiorly from this is the nasolacrimal canal. The lacrimal fluid (tears of the eye), which serves to maintain the moist surface of the eye, drains at the medial corner of the eye into the nasolacrimal canal. This duct then extends downward to open into the nasal cavity, behind the inferior nasal concha. In the nasal cavity, the lacrimal fluid normally drains posteriorly, but with an increased flow of tears due to crying or eye irritation, some fluid will also drain anteriorly, thus causing a runny nose.

Inferior Nasal Conchae

The right and left inferior nasal conchae form a curved bony plate that projects into the nasal cavity space from the lower lateral wall (see Figure 11). The inferior concha is the largest of the nasal conchae and can easily be seen when looking into the anterior opening of the nasal cavity.

Vomer Bone

The unpaired vomer bone, often referred to simply as the vomer, is triangular-shaped and forms the posterior-inferior part of the nasal septum (see Figure 9). The vomer is best seen when looking from behind into the posterior openings of the nasal cavity (see Figure 6a). In this view, the vomer is seen to form the entire height of the nasal septum. A much smaller portion of the vomer can also be seen when looking into the anterior opening of the nasal cavity.

Mandible

This image shows the structure of the mandible. On the top left, a lateral view of the skull shows the location of the mandible in purple. A magnified image shows the right lateral view of the mandible with the major parts labeled.

Figure 13. Isolated Mandible. The mandible is the only moveable bone of the skull.

The mandible forms the lower jaw and is the only moveable bone of the skull. At the time of birth, the mandible consists of paired right and left bones, but these fuse together during the first year to form the single U-shaped mandible of the adult skull. Each side of the mandible consists of a horizontal body and posteriorly, a vertically oriented ramus of the mandible (ramus = “branch”). The outside margin of the mandible, where the body and ramus come together is called the angle of the mandible (Figure 13).

The ramus on each side of the mandible has two upward-going bony projections. The more anterior projection is the flattened coronoid process of the mandible, which provides attachment for one of the biting muscles. The posterior projection is the condylar process of the mandible, which is topped by the oval-shaped condyle. The condyle of the mandible articulates (joins) with the mandibular fossa and articular tubercle of the temporal bone. Together these articulations form the temporomandibular joint, which allows for opening and closing of the mouth (see Figure 3). The broad U-shaped curve located between the coronoid and condylar processes is the mandibular notch.

Important landmarks for the mandible include the following:

  • Alveolar process of the mandible—This is the upper border of the mandibular body and serves to anchor the lower teeth.
  • Mental protuberance—The forward projection from the inferior margin of the anterior mandible that forms the chin (mental = “chin”).
  • Mental foramen—The opening located on each side of the anterior-lateral mandible, which is the exit site for a sensory nerve that supplies the chin.
  • Mylohyoid line—This bony ridge extends along the inner aspect of the mandibular body (see Figure 9). The muscle that forms the floor of the oral cavity attaches to the mylohyoid lines on both sides of the mandible.
  • Mandibular foramen—This opening is located on the medial side of the ramus of the mandible. The opening leads into a tunnel that runs down the length of the mandibular body. The sensory nerve and blood vessels that supply the lower teeth enter the mandibular foramen and then follow this tunnel. Thus, to numb the lower teeth prior to dental work, the dentist must inject anesthesia into the lateral wall of the oral cavity at a point prior to where this sensory nerve enters the mandibular foramen.
  • Lingula—This small flap of bone is named for its shape (lingula = “little tongue”). It is located immediately next to the mandibular foramen, on the medial side of the ramus. A ligament that anchors the mandible during opening and closing of the mouth extends down from the base of the skull and attaches to the lingula.

The Orbit

The orbit is the bony socket that houses the eyeball and contains the muscles that move the eyeball or open the upper eyelid. Each orbit is cone-shaped, with a narrow posterior region that widens toward the large anterior opening. To help protect the eye, the bony margins of the anterior opening are thickened and somewhat constricted. The medial walls of the two orbits are parallel to each other but each lateral wall diverges away from the midline at a 45° angle. This divergence provides greater lateral peripheral vision.

The walls of each orbit include contributions from seven skull bones (Figure 14). The frontal bone forms the roof and the zygomatic bone forms the lateral wall and lateral floor. The medial floor is primarily formed by the maxilla, with a small contribution from the palatine bone. The ethmoid bone and lacrimal bone make up much of the medial wall and the sphenoid bone forms the posterior orbit.

At the posterior apex of the orbit is the opening of the optic canal, which allows for passage of the optic nerve from the retina to the brain. Lateral to this is the elongated and irregularly shaped superior orbital fissure, which provides passage for the artery that supplies the eyeball, sensory nerves, and the nerves that supply the muscles involved in eye movements.

In this image, the different bones forming the orbit for the eyes are shown and labeled.

Figure 14. Bones of the Orbit. Seven skull bones contribute to the walls of the orbit. Opening into the posterior orbit from the cranial cavity are the optic canal and superior orbital fissure.

The Nasal Septum and Nasal Conchae

The nasal septum consists of both bone and cartilage components (Figure 15; see also Figure 9). The upper portion of the septum is formed by the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone. The lower and posterior parts of the septum are formed by the triangular-shaped vomer bone. In an anterior view of the skull, the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone is easily seen inside the nasal opening as the upper nasal septum, but only a small portion of the vomer is seen as the inferior septum. A better view of the vomer bone is seen when looking into the posterior nasal cavity with an inferior view of the skull, where the vomer forms the full height of the nasal septum. The anterior nasal septum is formed by the septal cartilage, a flexible plate that fills in the gap between the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid and vomer bones. This cartilage also extends outward into the nose where it separates the right and left nostrils. The septal cartilage is not found in the dry skull.

Attached to the lateral wall on each side of the nasal cavity are the superior, middle, and inferior nasal conchae (singular = concha), which are named for their positions (see Figure 11). These are bony plates that curve downward as they project into the space of the nasal cavity. They serve to swirl the incoming air, which helps to warm and moisturize it before the air moves into the delicate air sacs of the lungs. This also allows mucus, secreted by the tissue lining the nasal cavity, to trap incoming dust, pollen, bacteria, and viruses. The largest of the conchae is the inferior nasal concha, which is an independent bone of the skull. The middle concha and the superior conchae, which is the smallest, are both formed by the ethmoid bone. When looking into the anterior nasal opening of the skull, only the inferior and middle conchae can be seen. The small superior nasal concha is well hidden above and behind the middle concha.

This image shows the sagittal section of the bones that comprise the nasal cavity.

Figure 15. Nasal Septum. The nasal septum is formed by the perpendicular plate of the ethmoid bone and the vomer bone. The septal cartilage fills the gap between these bones and extends into the nose.

Cranial Fossae

Inside the skull, the floor of the cranial cavity is subdivided into three cranial fossae (spaces), which increase in depth from anterior to posterior (see Figure 4, Figure 6b, and Figure 9). Since the brain occupies these areas, the shape of each conforms to the shape of the brain regions that it contains. Each cranial fossa has anterior and posterior boundaries and is divided at the midline into right and left areas by a significant bony structure or opening.

Anterior Cranial Fossa

The anterior cranial fossa is the most anterior and the shallowest of the three cranial fossae. It overlies the orbits and contains the frontal lobes of the brain. Anteriorly, the anterior fossa is bounded by the frontal bone, which also forms the majority of the floor for this space. The lesser wings of the sphenoid bone form the prominent ledge that marks the boundary between the anterior and middle cranial fossae. Located in the floor of the anterior cranial fossa at the midline is a portion of the ethmoid bone, consisting of the upward projecting crista galli and to either side of this, the cribriform plates.

Middle Cranial Fossa

The middle cranial fossa is deeper and situated posterior to the anterior fossa. It extends from the lesser wings of the sphenoid bone anteriorly, to the petrous ridges (petrous portion of the temporal bones) posteriorly. The large, diagonally positioned petrous ridges give the middle cranial fossa a butterfly shape, making it narrow at the midline and broad laterally. The temporal lobes of the brain occupy this fossa. The middle cranial fossa is divided at the midline by the upward bony prominence of the sella turcica, a part of the sphenoid bone. The middle cranial fossa has several openings for the passage of blood vessels and cranial nerves (see Figure 6).

Openings in the middle cranial fossa are as follows:

  • Optic canal—This opening is located at the anterior lateral corner of the sella turcica. It provides for passage of the optic nerve into the orbit.
  • Superior orbital fissure—This large, irregular opening into the posterior orbit is located on the anterior wall of the middle cranial fossa, lateral to the optic canal and under the projecting margin of the lesser wing of the sphenoid bone. Nerves to the eyeball and associated muscles, and sensory nerves to the forehead pass through this opening.
  • Foramen rotundum—This rounded opening (rotundum = “round”) is located in the floor of the middle cranial fossa, just inferior to the superior orbital fissure. It is the exit point for a major sensory nerve that supplies the cheek, nose, and upper teeth.
  • Foramen ovale of the middle cranial fossa—This large, oval-shaped opening in the floor of the middle cranial fossa provides passage for a major sensory nerve to the lateral head, cheek, chin, and lower teeth.
  • Foramen spinosum—This small opening, located posterior-lateral to the foramen ovale, is the entry point for an important artery that supplies the covering layers surrounding the brain. The branching pattern of this artery forms readily visible grooves on the internal surface of the skull and these grooves can be traced back to their origin at the foramen spinosum.
  • Carotid canal—This is the zig-zag passageway through which a major artery to the brain enters the skull. The entrance to the carotid canal is located on the inferior aspect of the skull, anteromedial to the styloid process (see Figure 6a). From here, the canal runs anteromedially within the bony base of the skull. Just above the foramen lacerum, the carotid canal opens into the middle cranial cavity, near the posterior-lateral base of the sella turcica.
  • Foramen lacerum—This irregular opening is located in the base of the skull, immediately inferior to the exit of the carotid canal. This opening is an artifact of the dry skull, because in life it is completely filled with cartilage. All the openings of the skull that provide for passage of nerves or blood vessels have smooth margins; the word lacerum (“ragged” or “torn”) tells us that this opening has ragged edges and thus nothing passes through it.

Posterior Cranial Fossa

The posterior cranial fossa is the most posterior and deepest portion of the cranial cavity. It contains the cerebellum of the brain. The posterior fossa is bounded anteriorly by the petrous ridges, while the occipital bone forms the floor and posterior wall. It is divided at the midline by the large foramen magnum (“great aperture”), the opening that provides for passage of the spinal cord.

Located on the medial wall of the petrous ridge in the posterior cranial fossa is the internal acoustic meatus (see Figure 9). This opening provides for passage of the nerve from the hearing and equilibrium organs of the inner ear, and the nerve that supplies the muscles of the face. Located at the anterior-lateral margin of the foramen magnum is the hypoglossal canal. These emerge on the inferior aspect of the skull at the base of the occipital condyle and provide passage for an important nerve to the tongue.

Immediately inferior to the internal acoustic meatus is the large, irregularly shaped jugular foramen (see Figure 6a). Several cranial nerves from the brain exit the skull via this opening. It is also the exit point through the base of the skull for all the venous return blood leaving the brain. The venous structures that carry blood inside the skull form large, curved grooves on the inner walls of the posterior cranial fossa, which terminate at each jugular foramen.

Paranasal Sinuses

The paranasal sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces located within certain bones of the skull (Figure 16). All of the sinuses communicate with the nasal cavity (paranasal = “next to nasal cavity”) and are lined with nasal mucosa. They serve to reduce bone mass and thus lighten the skull, and they also add resonance to the voice. This second feature is most obvious when you have a cold or sinus congestion. These produce swelling of the mucosa and excess mucus production, which can obstruct the narrow passageways between the sinuses and the nasal cavity, causing your voice to sound different to yourself and others. This blockage can also allow the sinuses to fill with fluid, with the resulting pressure producing pain and discomfort.

The paranasal sinuses are named for the skull bone that each occupies. The frontal sinus is located just above the eyebrows, within the frontal bone (see Figure 15). This irregular space may be divided at the midline into bilateral spaces, or these may be fused into a single sinus space. The frontal sinus is the most anterior of the paranasal sinuses. The largest sinus is the maxillary sinus. These are paired and located within the right and left maxillary bones, where they occupy the area just below the orbits. The maxillary sinuses are most commonly involved during sinus infections. Because their connection to the nasal cavity is located high on their medial wall, they are difficult to drain. The sphenoid sinus is a single, midline sinus. It is located within the body of the sphenoid bone, just anterior and inferior to the sella turcica, thus making it the most posterior of the paranasal sinuses. The lateral aspects of the ethmoid bone contain multiple small spaces separated by very thin bony walls. Each of these spaces is called an ethmoid air cell. These are located on both sides of the ethmoid bone, between the upper nasal cavity and medial orbit, just behind the superior nasal conchae.

This figure shows a woman’s face and the location of the paranasal sinuses. The left panel shows the anterior view of the woman’s face with the sinuses labeled. The right panel shows the lateral view of the woman’s face with the same parts labeled.

Figure 16. Paranasal Sinuses. The paranasal sinuses are hollow, air-filled spaces named for the skull bone that each occupies. The most anterior is the frontal sinus, located in the frontal bone above the eyebrows. The largest are the maxillary sinuses, located in the right and left maxillary bones below the orbits. The most posterior is the sphenoid sinus, located in the body of the sphenoid bone, under the sella turcica. The ethmoid air cells are multiple small spaces located in the right and left sides of the ethmoid bone, between the medial wall of the orbit and lateral wall of the upper nasal cavity.

Hyoid Bone

The hyoid bone is an independent bone that does not contact any other bone and thus is not part of the skull (Figure 17). It is a small U-shaped bone located in the upper neck near the level of the inferior mandible, with the tips of the “U” pointing posteriorly. The hyoid serves as the base for the tongue above, and is attached to the larynx below and the pharynx posteriorly. The hyoid is held in position by a series of small muscles that attach to it either from above or below. These muscles act to move the hyoid up/down or forward/back. Movements of the hyoid are coordinated with movements of the tongue, larynx, and pharynx during swallowing and speaking.

In this image, the location and structure of the hyoid bone are shown. The top panel shows a person’s face and neck, with the hyoid bone highlighted in grey. The middle panel shows the anterior view and the bottom panel shows the right anterior view.

Figure 17. Hyoid Bone. The hyoid bone is located in the upper neck and does not join with any other bone. It provides attachments for muscles that act on the tongue, larynx, and pharynx.

Sours: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/hccs-ap1/chapter/the-skull/
Human Cranial Anatomy: Intro \u0026 Part I

Cranial Bones Overview

Tips for healthy cranial bones

Your cranial bones are the main defense system for your brain, so it’s important to maintain their health by:

  • Wearing a helmet. Always wear a helmet when riding anything on wheels, including bikes, skateboards, and scooters. Replace damaged or dented helmets and make sure they fit properly.
  • Fastening your seatbelt. Always wear a seatbelt when traveling in a car.
  • Reducing your risk of falling. Secure anything, such as loose electrical cords, that could cause someone to trip. If you have mobility issues, consider installing handrails and grab bars in areas, such as the shower or stairs.

If you have an infant, be sure to monitor their head for anything unusual. You can also make sure you child doesn’t stay in one position for too long. Some ways to do this include:

  • alternating the direction your baby’s head faces when putting them to bed
  • holding your baby when they’re awake instead of placing them in a crib, swing, or carrier, when possible
  • changing the arm you hold your baby with when feeding
  • allowing your child to play on their stomach under close supervision
Sours: https://www.healthline.com/health/cranial-bones

Anatomy definition cranium

Bones of the Skull

The skull is a bony structure that supports the face and forms a protective cavity for the brain. It is comprised of many bones, which are formed by intramembranous ossification, and joined by sutures (fibrous joints).

The bones of the skull can be considered as two groups: those of the cranium (which consist of the cranial roof and cranial base) and those of the face.

In this article, we shall look at the anatomy of the bones of the skull - their orientation, articulations, and clinical relevance.

Cranium

The cranium (also known as the neurocranium) is formed by the superior aspect of the skull. It encloses and protects the brain, meninges, and cerebral vasculature.

Anatomically, the cranium can be subdivided into a roof and a base:

  • Cranial roof - comprised of the frontal, occipital and two parietal bones. It is also known as the calvarium.
  • Cranial base - comprised of six bones: frontal, sphenoid, ethmoid, occipital, parietal and temporal. These bones articulate with the 1st cervical vertebra (atlas), the facial bones, and the mandible (jaw).
[caption id="attachment_9663" align="aligncenter" width="1002"]Fig 1 - Bones of the calvarium and cranial base.Fig 1 - Bones of the calvarium and cranial base.[/caption]

[start-clinical]

Clinical Relevance: Cranial Fractures

Fractures of the cranium typically arise from blunt force or penetrating trauma. When considering cranial fractures, one area of clinical importance is the pterion - a H-shaped junction between the temporal, parietal, frontal, and sphenoid bones.

The pterion overlies the middle meningeal artery, and fractures in this area may injury the vessel. Blood can accumulate between the skull and the dura mater, forming an extradural haematoma.

[caption id="attachment_13550" align="aligncenter" width="586"]Fig 1.3 - Lateral view of the skull, showing the path of the meningeal arteries. Note the pterion, a weak point of the skull, where the anterior middle meningeal artery is at risk of damage.Fig 2 - Lateral view of the skull, showing the path of the meningeal arteries. Note the pterion, a weak point of the skull, where the anterior middle meningeal artery is at risk of damage.[/caption]

[end-clinical]

Face

The facial skeleton (also known as the viscerocranium) supports the soft tissues of the face.

It consists of 14 bones, which fuse to house the orbits of the eyes, the nasal and oral cavities, and the sinuses. The frontal bone, typically a bone of the calvaria, is sometimes included as part of the facial skeleton.

The facial bones are:

  • Zygomatic (2) - forms the cheek bones of the face and articulates with the frontal, sphenoid, temporal and maxilla bones.
  • Lacrimal (2) - the smallest bones of the face. They form part of the medial wall of the orbit.
  • Nasal (2) - two slender bones that are located at the bridge of the nose.
  • Inferior nasal conchae (2) - located within the nasal cavity, these bones increase the surface area of the nasal cavity, thus increasing the amount of inspired air that can come into contact with the cavity walls.
  • Palatine (2) - situated at the rear of oral cavity and forms part of the hard palate.
  • Maxilla (2) - comprises part of the upper jaw and hard palate.
  • Vomer - forms the posterior aspect of the nasal septum.
[caption id="attachment_9652" align="aligncenter" width="543"]Fig 3 - Anterior view of the face, showing some of the bones of the nasal skeleton. The vomer, palatine and inferior conchae bones lie deep within the face.[/caption]

[start-clinical]

Clinical Relevance: Facial Fractures

Fractures of the facial skeleton are relatively common and most frequently result from road traffic collisions, fist fights, and falls.

The four most common facial fracture types are:

  • Nasal fracture - the most common facial fracture, due to the prominent position of the nasal bones at the bridge of the nose. There is often significant soft tissue swelling and associated epistaxis.
  • Maxillary fracture - associated with high-energy trauma. Fractures affecting of maxillary bones are classified using the Le Fort classification, ranging from 1 to 3.
  • Mandibular fracture - often bilateral occurring directly at the side of trauma, and indirectly at the contralateral side due to transmitted forces. Clinical features include pain at fracture site and misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion)
  • Zygomatic arch fracture - associated with trauma to the side of the face. Displaced fractures can damage the nearby infraorbital nerve, leading to ipsilateral paraesthesia of the check, nose, and lip.
[caption id="attachment_116758" align="aligncenter" width="425"]Fig 4 - 3D reconstruction of a comminuted nasal bone fracture.[/caption]

[end-clinical]

Sutures of the Skull

Sutures are a type of fibrous joint that are unique to the skull. They are immovable and fuse completely around the age of 20.

These joints are important in the context of trauma, as they represent points of potential weakness in the skull. The main sutures in the adult skull are:

  • Coronal suture - fuses the frontal bone with the two parietal bones.
  • Sagittal suture - fuses both parietal bones to each other.
  • Lambdoid suture - fuses the occipital bone to the two parietal bones.

In neonates, the incompletely fused suture joints give rise to membranous gaps between the bones, known as fontanelles. The two major fontanelles are:

  • Frontal fontanelle - located at the junction of the coronal and sagittal sutures
  • Occipital fontanelle - located at the junction of the sagittal and lambdoid sutures
[caption id="attachment_9658" align="aligncenter" width="526"]Fig 5 - The major fontanelles and sutures of the skull[/caption]
Sours: https://teachmeanatomy.info/head/osteology/skull/
Cranial Nerve BASICS - The 12 cranial nerves and how to REMEMBER them!

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Now discussing:

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