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Keywords:

  • cranial vault;
  • diploë;
  • elastic properties;
  • material properties;
  • bone density;
  • bone ash weight;
  • parietal bone

Abstract

Even though the cranial vault functions as protection for the brain and as a support structure for facial and masticatory functions, little is known about its mechanical properties or their variations. The cranial vault bone is interesting because of its maintenance in spite of low functional strains, and because calvarial bone cells are often used in cell culture studies. We measured thickness, density, and ash weight, and ultrasonically determined elastic properties throughout the cortices of 10 human parietal bones. The results are unique for studies of the cranial vault because: 1) measurements focused specifically on the cortical components, 2) the orientations of the axes of maximum stiffness were determined before measurement of elastic properties, and 3) two related measurements (bone density and percent ash weight) were compared. Results showed that the periosteal cortical plate (outer table) and the endosteal cortical plate (inner table) had significant differences in material properties. The outer table was on average thicker, denser, and stiffer than the inner table, which had a higher ash weight percentage. Within each table there were significant differences in thicknesses, ash weight percentages, and E2/E3 anisotropies among sites. Few sites on either table had significant orientations of the axes of maximum stiffness. Despite this apparent randomness in orientation, almost all sites exhibited anisotropies equivalent to other parts of the skeleton. Anat Rec 268:7–15, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.