Average thickness of the bones of the human neurocranium: development of reference measurements to assist with blunt force trauma interpretations

Samantha K. Rowbotham, Calvin G. Mole, Diana Tieppo, Magda Blaszkowska, Stephen M. Cordner, Soren Blau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The accurate interpretation of a blunt force head injury relies on an understanding of the case circumstances (extrinsic variables) and anatomical details of the individual (intrinsic variables). Whilst it is often possible to account for many of these variables, the intrinsic variable of neurocranial thickness is difficult to account for as data for what constitutes ‘normal’ thickness is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of age, sex and ancestry on neurocranial thickness, and develop reference ranges for average neurocranial thickness in the context of those biological variables. Thickness (mm) was measured at 20 points across the frontal, left and right parietals, left and right temporals and occipital bones. Measurements were taken from post-mortem computed tomography scans of 604 individuals. Inferential statistics assessed how age, sex and ancestry affected thickness and descriptive statistics established thickness means. Mean thickness ranged from 2.11 mm (temporal squama) to 19.19 mm (petrous portion). Significant differences were noted in thickness of the frontal and temporal bones when age was considered, all bones when sex was considered and the, right parietal, left and right temporal and occipital bones when ancestry was considered. Furthermore, significant interactions in thickness were seen between age and sex in the frontal bone, ancestry and age in the temporal bone, ancestry and sex in the temporal bone, and age, sex and ancestry in the occipital bone. Given the assorted influence of the biological variables, reference measurement ranges for average thickness incorporated these variables. Such reference measurements allow forensic practitioners to identify when a neurocranial bone is of normal, or abnormal, thickness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-213
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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