General Features and Functions that the Skull

The human being skull is the component of the skeleton the supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain.

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Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe adult person skull consists of two areas of various embryological origins: the neurocranium and the viscerocranium.The neurocranium is a safety shell neighboring the mind and mind stem.The viscerocranium (or facial skeleton) is created by the bones sustaining the face.Except because that the mandible, every skull bones space joined with each other by sutures —synarthrodial (immovable) joints.The skull includes air-filled cavities called sinuses. Their features are debatable, yet may be regarded lessening skull weight, contributing come voice resonance, and also warming and also moistening inspired air.Key Termsviscerocranium: The skeleton that supports face structure.sutures: A reasonably rigid joint in between bones the the neurocranium.neurocranium: The security vault bordering the brain and brain stem.

The skull support the musculature and structures of the face and also forms a safety cavity because that the brain. The skull is formed of numerous bones which, through the exemption of the mandible, room joined together by sutures—synarthrodial (immovable) joints.

Composition the the Skull

The adult human skull is comprised of twenty-two bones i beg your pardon are split into two components of different embryological origin: the neurocranium and the viscerocranium.


The neurocranium creates the cranial cavity that surrounds and protects the brain and brainstem. The neurocranium is created from the occipital bone, two temporal bones, 2 parietal bones, the sphenoid, ethmoid and frontal bones; they are all joined along with sutures.

Components of neurocranium: Neurocranium consists of 8 parts: frontal, sphenoid, ethmoid, occipital, 2 temporal, and 2 parietal bones.


The viscerocranium bones form the anterior and also lower regions of the skull and also include the mandible, which attaches with the just truly motile joint found in the skull. The facial skeleton has the vomer, two nasal conchae, two nasal bones, 2 maxilla, the mandible, two palatine bones, 2 zygomatic bones, and two lacrimal bones.

Components of viscerocranium : The face is do of 2 nasal, 2 lacrimal, 2 palantine, 2 inferior sleep concha, 2 zygomatic, 2 maxilla, 1 mandible, and 1 vomer.

Other Features

The skull likewise contains the sinuses. These room air-filled cavities that add to lessening the weight of the skull v a minimal palliation in strength. They contribute to resonance of the voice and also assist in the warming and also moistening of wait inhaled via the nose.

Cranial Bones

The neurocranium is comprised of eight bones: occipital, two temporal bones, two parietal bones, sphenoid, ethmoid, and also the frontal bone.

Learning Objectives

Differentiate the bones of the neurocranium

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe eight skeleton of the neurocranium kind major parts of the skull and also protect the brain.The neurocranium is composed of 2 temporal bones situated to the base and side of the skull, and two parietal skeleton that consist of the roof of the skull.A solitary occipital bone develops the basic of the skull, and also the frontal bone forms the forehead.The sphenoid and also ethmoid bones located to the former of the skull kind parts of the orbit sockets and nasal cavity; they also support and protect an essential organs found in the skull.Key Termsneurocranium: The component of the skull the encloses and protects the brain and mind stem.

The neurocranium creates the cranial cavity that surrounds and protects the mind and brainstem. The neurocranium consists of the occipital bone, two temporal bones, 2 parietal bones, the sphenoid, ethmoid, and also frontal bones—all space joined along with sutures.

Evolutionary,it is the growth of the neurocranium the has promoted the growth of the brain and its linked developments.


Neurocranium: A lateral view mirroring the skeletal that framework the neurocranium.

Occipital Bone

The occipital bone forms the basic of the skull in ~ the behind of the cranium. It articulates with the very first vertebra the the spinal cord and additionally contains the foramen magnum, the large opening that the skill through which the spinal cord passes together it enters the vertebral column. The occipital bone borders the parietal bones with the heavily serrated lambdoidal suture, and likewise the temporal bones through occipitomastoid suture.

Temporal Bones

The temporal bones are located at the base and also sides that the skull, lateral come the temporal lobes of the brain. The temporal skeleton consist of 4 regions the squamous, mastoid, petrous and also tympanic regions.

The squamous an ar is the largest and most exceptional region. Worse to the squamous is the mastoid region, and also fused between the squamous and also mastoid areas is the petrous region. Finally, the small and inferior tympanic an ar lies anteriorly come the mastoid.

There room two processes that originate native the temporal bone:

The zygomatic procedure that jobs from the lower squamous region and articulates through the zygomatic bone of the cheek.The styloid process projects downwards from the internal of the temporal bone and also provides attachments for numerous muscles connected with the tongue.

The temporal skeletal have four borders:

The occipitomastoid suture separates the occipital bone and also mastoid portion of temporal bone.The squamosal suture separates the parietal bone and squama part of temporal bone.The sphenosquamosal suture off the sphenoid bone and also squama section of temporal bone.The zygomaticotemporal suture separates the zygomatic bone and zygomatic procedure of temporal bone.

Parietal Bones

The two large parietal bones room connected and also make up component of the roof and also sides the the human being skull. The two bones articulate to form the sagittal suture. In the front, the parietal bones form the coronal suture through the frontal bone, and also in the rear, the lambdoid suture is developed by the occipital bone. Finally, the squamosal suture separates the parietal and also temporal bones.

Sphenoid Bone

The sphenoid bone is positioned in the center of the skull towards the front and also forms the rear of the orbit. It has actually been explained as resembling a butterfly due to its wing-like processes. The sphenoid bone is divided into number of parts: the body of the bone, two higher wings, 2 lesser wings, and also the pterygoid processes.

The sphenoid bone is just one of the most complicated in the body as result of its interactions with many facial bones, ligaments, and also muscles. The body that develops the middle of the sphenoid bone articulates v the ethmoid and also occipital bone and forms a crucial part that the sleep cavity; it additionally contains the sphenoidal sinuses.

The greater wings form the floor the the middle cranial fossa that homes the frontal lobes and pituitary gland, and additionally the posterior wall surface of the orbit. The lesser wings project laterally and form the floor that the anterior cranial fossa and also the premium orbital fissure with which several key optical nerves pass.

Ethmoid Bone

The ethmoid bone is a small bone in the skull the separates the sleep cavity native the brain. That is lightweight because of its spongy, air-filled construction and also is situated at the roof that the nose and also between the 2 orbits.

The ethmoid bone develops the medial wall surface of the orbit, the roof of the sleep cavity, and also due come its main location the articulates with numerous bones of the viscerocranium. Inside the neurocranium the articulates with the frontal and also sphenoid bones.

Frontal Bone

The frontal bone forms the prior of the skull and is divided into three parts:

Squamous: This component is huge and flat and also forms the main region of the forehead.Orbital: This part lies inferiorly and also forms the superior border of the orbit.Nasal: this component is smaller and also articulates v the sleep bones and maxilla to contribute to the roof that the nose.

The frontal bone borders two other neurocranial bones—the parietal bones through the coronal sutures and also the sphenoid bone with the sphenofrontal suture. It likewise articulates with the zygomatic and also nasal bones and also the maxilla.

Facial Bones

The viscerocranium (face) includes these bones: vomer, 2 inferior nasal conchae, 2 nasals, maxilla, mandible, palatine, 2 zygomatics, and 2 lacrimals.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe number of bones of the viscerocranium room joined by sutures to each other and the neurocranium, except for the mandible, i m sorry articulates v the temporal bones.The hyoid bone, ethmoid bone, and also sphenoid bones are sometimes included in the viscerocranium.Key Termsviscerocranium: The face skeleton the is created by the bones of the anterior and lower skull, i beg your pardon are acquired from branchial arches.

The Viserocranium

The viscerocranium or facial bones supports the soft organization of the face. The viscerocranium consists of 14 individual bones the fuse together. However, the hyoid bone, ethmoid bone, and sphenoid bones room sometimes had in the viscerocranium.

Zygomatic Bones

The 2 zygomatic bones form the cheeks and contribute to the orbits. Castle articulate v the frontal, temporal, maxilla, and also sphenoid bones.

Lacrimal Bones

The 2 lacrimal bones kind the medial wall surface of the orbit and articulate through the frontal, ethmoid, maxilla, and also inferior sleep conchae. The lacrimal bones are the two smallest bones situated in the face.

Nasal Bones

The 2 slender nasal bones located in the midline that the confront fuse to kind the leg of the noise and additionally articulate v the frontal, ethmoid and maxilla bones. The inferior sleep conchae are situated within the nasal cavity. They space spongy and also curled in shape; their primary function is to rise the surface area the the sleep cavity, which likewise increases the lot of air that contacts the mucous membranes and cilia the the nose, therefore filtering, warming, and humidifying the air before it enters the lungs. In ~ the base of the sleep cavity is the small vomer bone which develops the nasal septum.

Maxilla Bones

The maxilla skeletal fuse in the midline and type the upper jaw. They provide the bed because that the top teeth, the floor the the nose, and also the base of the orbits. The maxilla articulates v the zygomatic, nasal, lacrimal, and also palatine bones.

Palatine Bones

The palatine skeleton fuse in the midline to type the palatine, situated at the earlier of the sleep cavity that creates the roof the the mouth and the floor the the orbit.

The Mandible

Finally, the mandible develops the lower jaw that the skull. The joint in between the mandible and the temporal skeleton of the neurocranium, recognized as the temporomandibular joint, develops the just non-sutured joint in the skull.

Facial bones: There room fourteen face bones. Some, like the lacrimal and nasal bones, room paired. Others, prefer the mandible and vomer, space singular.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe orbits space conical or four-sided pyramidal cavities, which open right into the midline that the confront and suggest backwards.To the behind of the orbit the optical foramen opens into the optic canal, i beg your pardon transmits the optic nerve and opthalmic artery.The orbit protects the eye from mechanically injury and provides access for the optic nerve to the brain.Key Termsoptic canal: The canal that transmits the optic nerve and ophthalmic artery into the orbit cavity.orbit: The bony cavity containing the eyeball; the eye socket.

The orbit, or eye socket, is the cavity located in the skull in i m sorry the eye and its connected appendages are housed. The orbits space conical, sometimes described as four-sided pyramidal, caries that open up in the midline that the confront and allude backwards. Come the rear of the orbit, the optic foramen opens right into the optical canal v which the optic nerve and also ophthalmic artery pass.

The primary functions of the orbit encompass protection that its delicate components and, with muscle attachment and a smooth coating fascia, to likewise promote the smooth, vulnerable movements of the eye.

Structure the the Orbit

The orbital cavity is developed from seven bones. The frontal bone forms the remarkable border that the orbital rim and also the superior wall surface (roof) the the orbital surface.

The zygomatic bone forms the lateral (and half of the basal) border that the orbit rim, and also the lateral wall of the orbit surface—this is the thickest region of the orbit as it is most exposed to outside trauma.

Completing the basal and also medial border the the orbital rim is the maxillary bone, which also forms the inferior wall (floor) the the orbit surface.

The lacrimal and ethmoid bones contribute to the medial wall of the orbit and also to the medial wall of the orbital canal. The tiny palatine bone contributes to the floor the the orbit.

Finally, the sphenoid bone creates the posterior wall of the orbit and additionally contributes to the formation of the optic canal.


The human being skull has countless holes well-known as foramina through which cranial nerves, arteries, veins, and also other structures pass.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsA foramen (plural: foramina ) is an opening inside the body that allows key structures to attach one part of the body to another.The skull bones the contain foramina include the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid, maxilla, palatine, temporal, and also occipital.There room 21 foramina in the human being skull.Key Termsforamina: The openings within the body the typically allow muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, or various other structures to attach one component of the human body to another.

In anatomy, a foramen is any opening. Foramina within the body of humans and also other pets typically permit muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, or various other structures to attach one part of the body with another.

The human being skull has many foramina through which cranial nerves, arteries, veins, and also other frameworks pass. The skull bones that contain foramina include the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid, maxilla, palatine, temporal, and occipital lobes.

Key foramina in the skull include:

Supraorbital foramen: situated in the frontal bone, it permits passage of the supraorbital vein, artery, and nerve right into the orbit.Optic foramen: situated in the sphenoid, it enables the i of the ophthalmic artery and nerve native the optic canal right into the orbit.Foramen magnum: situated in the occipital bone, it allows the i of the spinal and also vertebral arteries and also the spinal cord to happen from the skull into the vertebral column.Foramina of cribriform plate: located in the ethmoid bone, it allows the i of the olfactory nerve.Foramen rotundum: situated in the sphenoid bone, it allows passage the the maxillary nerve.


A suture is a kind of fibrous joint (or synarthrosis) that just occurs in the skull (or cranium).

Key Takeaways

Key PointsIt is common for many of the skeleton of the skull to be unfused in ~ birth. This permits a small amount of movement at the sutures, i beg your pardon contributes to the compliance and also elasticity of the skull.Sutures come to be fused as individuals age; thus, analyzing sutures can carry out an calculation of age postmortem.There space 17 called sutures top top the human skull.Key Termssuture: A reasonably rigid joint in between two or an ext hard elements, such together the bony bowl of the skull.

A suture is a type of fibrous joint (or synarthrosis) that just occurs in the skull. The bones space bound together by Sharpey’s fibers, a matrix of connective tissue which administer a for sure joint.

A little amount of activity is allowed through this sutures that contributes to the compliance and elasticity of the skull. The joint between the mandible and the cranium, well-known as the temporomandibular joint, forms the only non-sutured joint in the skull. Most sutures are called for the bones the they articulate.

At birth, plenty of of the skeleton of the skull continue to be unfused come the soft spots defined as fontanelle. The bones fuse fairly rapidly with a process known as craniosynotosis, return the relative positions of the skeleton can continue to change through life. In old period the cranial sutures may ossify completely, reducing the lot of elasticity current in the skull. Together such, the degree of ossification have the right to be a valuable tool in determining age postmortem.


Lateral watch of a skull mirroring sutures: The dotted red lines show the ar of skull sutures.

Sutures generally visible indigenous the next include:

Coronal suture: Located between the frontal and also parietal bones.Lambdoid suture: Located in between the parietal, temporal and occipital bones.Occipitomastoid suture.Parietomastoid suture.Sphenofrontal suture.Sphenoparietal suture.Sphenosquamosal suture.Sphenozygomatic suture.Squamosal suture: Located between the parietal and also the temporal bone.Zygomaticotemporal suture.Zygomaticofrontal suture.

Sutures mainly visible indigenous front or above include:

Frontal suture or metopic suture: Located in between the two frontal bones, before the fusion of the two right into a single bone.Sagittal suture: located along the midline, in between the parietal bones.

Sutures mostly visible from listed below or within include:

Frontoethmoidal suture.Petrosquamous suture.Sphenoethmoidal suture.Sphenopetrosal suture.

Paranasal Sinuses

The paranasal sinuses (four, paired, air-filled spaces) surround the sleep cavity, and are located above and between the eyes, and behind the ethmoids.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsThe sinuses are named for the face bones the they are situated behind.There are four sinuses; the maxillary, frontal, ethmoid, and also sphenoid.Paranasal sinuses type developmentally with excavation of bone by air-filled sacs from the sleep cavity.This procedure begins prenatally and continues through the food of one individual’s lifetime.The biological role of the sinuses is debated, however a number of possible features have been proposed: decreasing weight of the face; boosting resonance the voice; buffer versus blows; insulating sensitive structures from fast temperature fluctuations; and humidifying and heating the inhaled air.Key Termsparanasal sinuses: A group of four, paired, air-filled spaces that surround the sleep cavity (maxillary sinuses), over the eyes (frontal sinuses), in between the eye (ethmoid sinuses), and behind the eyes (sphenoid sinuses).

Paranasal sinuses space a team of four, paired, air-filled spaces that surround the nasal cavity (maxillary sinuses), over the eye (frontal sinuses), in between the eyes (ethmoid sinuses), and behind the eyes (sphenoid sinuses). The sinuses are called for the facial bones that they are located behind.

The maxillary sinuses (also dubbed the maxillary antrechea, the largest of the paranasal sinuses) are situated under the orbits in the maxillary bones.The frontal sinuses room superior come the orbits and also are in the frontal bone.The ethmoid sinuses are created from several discrete air cells within the ethmoid bone in between the nose and also the orbits.The sphenoid sinuses room in the sphenoid bone at the facility of the skull base under the pituitary gland.The paranasal sinuses room lined v respiratory epithelium.

The paranasal sinuses form developmentally v excavation the bone through air-filled sacs (pneumatic diverticula) native the sleep cavity. This process begins prenatally and continues with the food of an individual’s lifetime.

Function the the Paranasal Sinuses

The biological function of the sinuses is debated, yet a variety of possible functions have been proposed. This include:

Decreasing the family member weight that the former of the skull, and especially the skeleton of the face.Increasing resonance that the voice.Providing a buffer against blows to the face.Insulating perceptible structures like dental roots and also eyes from quick temperature fluctuations in the sleep cavity.Humidifying and also heating that inhaled air due to the fact that of sluggish air turnover in this region.Regulation of intranasal and serum gas pressures.Immunological defense.


A fontanelle is one anatomical feature on an infant’s skull that allows its plates to be versatile to pass v the bear canal.

Key Takeaways

Key PointsFontanelles room soft spots on a baby’s head that, during birth, allow the bony bowl of the skull come flex and allow the child’s head to pass with the birth canal.At birth, the skull functions a tiny posterior fontanelle (an open area extended by a difficult membrane) where the 2 parietal skeleton adjoin the occipital bone (at the lambda); it generally closes in the an initial two to 3 months the life with intramembranous ossification.The lot larger, diamond-shaped anterior fontanelle—where the two frontal and also two parietal bones join—generally remains open until the child is about two years of age.Two smaller sized fontanelles are situated on each side of the head. The much more anterior one is the sphenoidal (between the sphenoid, parietal, temporal, and frontal bones), if the much more posterior one is the mastoid (between the temporal, occipital, and parietal bones).Key Termsfontanelle: A fontanelle is a soft membraneous spot on the head the a baby because of incomplete blend of the cranial bones.

Fontanelles are soft spots on a baby’s head that, throughout birth, permit the bony bowl of the skull come flex and allow the child’s head come pass v the birth canal. The ossification of the skeletal of the skull reasons the fontanelles come close over a duration of 18 come 24 months; they eventually kind the sutures the the neurocranium.

The cranium of a newborn consists of 5 main bones: two frontal bones, two parietal bones, and one occipital bone. These room joined through fibrous sutures that allow movement that facilitates childbirth and brain growth.

At birth, the skull attributes a tiny posterior fontanelle (an open up area spanned by a hard membrane) where the two parietal skeletal adjoin the occipital bone (at the lambda). This fontanelle normally closes during the first two to 3 months of an infant’s life. This is called intramembranous ossification. The mesenchymal connective tissue turns right into bone tissue.

The much larger, diamond-shaped anterior fontanelle—where the 2 frontal and two parietal skeleton join—generally remains open up until a child is around two years old. The anterior fontanelle is advantageous clinically, together examination of an infant has palpating the anterior fontanelle.

Two smaller fontanelles are situated on each side the the head. The an ext anterior one is the sphenoidal (between the sphenoid, parietal, temporal, and frontal bones), when the an ext posterior one is the mastoid (between the temporal, occipital, and also parietal bones).

The fontanelle might pulsate. Return the specific cause of this is not known, it is perfectly normal and seems to echo the heartbeat, maybe via the arterial pulse within the mind vasculature, or in the meninges. This pulsating action is how the soft spot acquired its name: fontanelle method little fountain.

Parents may concern that their infant might be an ext prone come injury at the fontanelles. In fact, back they might colloquially be dubbed soft spots, the membrane spanning the fontanelles is extremely challenging and challenging to penetrate.

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The fontanelles enable the infant brain to be imaged using ultrasonography. As soon as they are closed, most of the brain is inaccessible come ultrasound imaging due to the fact that the bony skull gift an acoustic barrier.