For most people, skulls symbolise pirate chests or some ancient times. Some people only associate skull with death without which we wouldn’t be able to examine beauty and complexity of it. But for us, medical professionals, it associates with medicine, with something exquisite and detailed; as I personally was learning about the bones of the skull in my first year anatomy class, I became completely fascinated of how precise and well – made it is.
Well, what exactly is it made of? It is comprised of 22 bones which are tightly joined together by fibrous joints called sutures. These sutures allow the cranium to act as a whole and serve its primary purpose of protecting the inner organs, namely the brain. For the means of simplicity and logic the anatomy of it can be divided in the roof or the calvarium, and the base. The calvarium is made of the frontal, occipital bones and two parietal bones, and the base of the cranium which support the brain and provide articulation points for the atlas vertebra and mandible is made of the sphenoid, frontal, ethmoid, occipital, parietal and temporal bones.
This is overview of the cranial anatomy. But what about our face? What makes our facial expressions so characteristic and gives us our individual look? 14 bones are the supporters of the facial muscles and organs and the only movable cranial bone is one of the facial ones – the mandible. The other 13 are two maxillae, vomer, two palatine, two nasal, two zygomatic, two nasal conhae and two lacrimal.
Except for the mandibular bone, the bones in the cranium are joined together by a joint that cannot be found anywhere else in the human body – sutures. In the newborn they haven’t all fused together quite yet and form the frontal and occipital fontanelles, but by the approximate time one has reached 20 years of age, they are fused together and are immovable. The most notable sutures in the adult cranium are coronal, sagittal and lambdoid. It is the crossing of those sutures that form aforementioned fontanelles in a newborn.
Knowing the anatomy of cranium is amazing; the complexity of it is just amazing. But in medical school it is usually one of the toughest bone complexes to learn. How can you help yourself improve the experience? The best tool we have found just might be Anatomy Next – not only they have an amazingly detailed renders of 3D anatomy, these models are also available in augmented reality, including Microsoft Hololens. Have you tried it? Share your thoughts below!