Evaluation of morphological changes in the adult skull with age and sex

J Anat. 2016 Dec;229(6):838-846. doi: 10.1111/joa.12247. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


The morphology of the brain and skull are important in the evaluation of the aging human; however, little is known about how the skull may change with age. The objective of this study was to evaluate the morphological changes of the adult skull using three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis of thousands of landmarks with the focus on anatomic regions that may be correlated with brain atrophy and head injury. Computed tomography data were collected between ages 20 and 100. Each scan was segmented using thresholding techniques. An atlas image of a 50th percentile skull was registered to each subject scan by computing a series of rigid, affine, and non-linear transformations between atlas space and subject space. Landmarks on the atlas skull were transformed to each subject and partitioned into the inner and outer cranial vault and the cranial fossae. A generalized Procrustes analysis was completed for the landmark sets. The coordinate locations describing the shape of each region were regressed with age to generate a model predicting the landmark location with age. Permutation testing was performed to assess significant changes with age. For the males, all anatomic regions reveal significant changes in shape with age except for the posterior cranial fossa. For the females, only the middle cranial fossa and anterior cranial fossa were found to change significantly in shape. Results of this study are important for understanding the adult skull and how shape changes may pertain to brain atrophy, aging, and injury.

Keywords: aging; biomechanics; cranial fossa; morphometrics; skull; trauma.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Young Adult