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Keywords:

  • CT scans;
  • endocranial volume;
  • growth and development;
  • ontogeny;
  • osteological collection

Abstract

Endocranial volume (EV) estimation is widely used in physical anthropology for assessing brain size differences between taxa and monitoring the emergence of brain growth patterns in modern humans. However, to date, no reference data are available for modern human EV ontogeny. We measured 94 skulls with known sex and age (ranging from 0 to 7.5 years) from the osteological collection of Strasbourg University (OCSU) by using an accurate digital active contour model algorithm on 3D virtual models, reconstructed by CT. The OCSU data also allow us to propose improved equations for estimating EV in immature individuals from dry skull diameters (length, width, and height). Aside from the EV, the average proportional endocranial volume (PEV), corresponding to the ratio of EV at a given age to the average EV in the corresponding adult population, was also computed. EV nearly doubles during the first year of life, and later continues to expand more slowly, at least until 7 years of age. No sex differences can be demonstrated between the EV distributions of boys and girls in this sample. However, although PEV at birth is identical in girls and boys, it later displays significantly higher values in the girls of our series. PEV obtained at birth is 22%, which is quite different from values established for the brain itself from autopsied individuals, or MRI data. This suggests that assessments of EV and PEV values in fossil specimens should be conducted by using identical measures in comparative samples of extant humans and apes. Am J Phys Anthropol 147:312–318, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.