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Synonym: braincase, brainpan
German: Gehirnschädel

1 Definition

The human neurocranium is the upper part of the skull that encloses and protects the brain. The remaining lower part of the skull is the viscerocranium or facial skeleton.

2 Anatomy

The bones that comprise the neurocranium are mostly flat bones, although several are classified as irregular bones. The neurocranium is usually considered to consist of six different bones, two of which occur pairwise producing a total of eight individual bones:

Some authors classify the ethmoid bone as part of the viscerocranium. While the six ossicles are located inside of the middle ear (three ossicles in each middle ear) and within the temporal bones, they are not usually considered part of the skull. Often there are a variable number of sutural bones present that are not separately enumerated when listing the bones of the neurocranium.

All eight bones of the neurocranium are joined together by rigid articulations permitting very little movement. These joints are of two types:

The braincase is further subdivided into the skull base and the skullcap. The skull base possesses numerous openings, or foramina, that form passageways for nerves and blood vessels. The largest foramen is the foramen magnum in the base of the occipital bone, through which the spinal cord connects with the inferior part of the brain.

The skullcap consists of the:

  • parietal bones
  • superior part of the frontal bone
  • superior part of the occipital bone

Together the eight bones of the neurocranium form and enclose the cranial cavity, or intracranial space. The capacity of an adult human cranial cavity is 1,200-1,700 cm3.

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Specialties: Anatomy

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