Cranial vault

The cranial vault, also known as the neurocranium or calvarium, is the cranial space that encases and protects the brain together with the base of the skull (chondrocranium).

The cranial vault consists of the following flat bones:

The cranial vault develops from the membranous neurocranium. The membranous neurocranium develops from paraxial mesoderm and neural crest cells. The mesoderm undergoes direct intramembranous ossification from which the flat calvarial bones are formed, that is to say, there is no intervening cartilaginous scaffolding. The calvarial bones form within a collagen matrix as bone spicules, which radiate from a primary ossification center in each bony plate toward the periphery. The plates are separated by broad dense connective tissue seams, the sutures. The sagittal suture develops from neural crest cells and the coronal suture, from paraxial mesoderm. In addition to the sutures, there are six fontanels which are six connective tissue patches where more than two sutures meet:

  • one anterior fontanel
  • one posterior fontanel
  • two anterolateral fontanels
  • two posterolateral fontanels

The anterior fontanel is the largest. During birth, the sutures and fontanels overlap (molding) to aid the head's passage through the birth canal. The posterior fontanel closes before the age of 3 months and may already be closed at birth, while the anterior fontanel closes after the age of 18 months; this is of prime importance for performing cranial ultrasound.
Most features of the adult skull appear during the first two years of life, including the inner and outer tables, diploic space, vascular markings, and grooves for the dural sinuses. The skull reaches its definitive size around the 20th year of life.

Head and neck anatomy
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Article Information

rID: 52904
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Neurocranium
  • Calvarium
  • Calvaria
  • Skull vault

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