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A finite element study of the human cranium : the impact of morphological variation on biting performance

Toro-Ibacache, María Viviana


María Viviana Toro-Ibacache


Paul O'Higgins

Germán Manríquez Soto


This thesis investigated the relationship between craniofacial morphology and masticatory mechanics using finite element analysis (FEA). Chapter 1 is a literature review of the relevant background: bone mechanics, jaw-elevator muscle anatomy, imaging techniques, FEA and geometric morphometrics.

The second, third and fourth chapters comprise experimental work aiming to provide a framework for FE model construction and loading. The second chapter aimed to validate the method for FE model building and assess the sensitivity of models to simplifications. Models with simplified bone anatomy and resolution predicted strains close to those measured experimentally. The third chapter assessed the predictability of muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) from bony features. It was found that muscle CSA, an estimator of muscle force, has low predictability. The fourth chapter assessed FE model sensitivity to variations in applied muscle forces. Results showed that a cranial FE model behaved reasonably robustly under variations in the muscle loading regimen.

Chapter 5 uses the conclusions from the previous studies to build FE models of six human crania, including two individuals with artificial deformations of the neurocranium. Despite differences in form and the presence of deformation, all performed similarly during biting, varying mainly in the magnitudes of performance parameters. The main differences related to the form of the maxilla, irrespective of neurocranial deformation. The most orthognatic individuals with the narrowest maxilla showed the most distinctive deformation during incisor and molar bites, and achieved the greatest bite force efficiency. However, bite forces were similar among individuals irrespective of the presence of artificial deformation. This appears to relate to the preservation of normal dental occlusion, which in turn maintains similar loading and so morphogenesis of the mid face. Altogether, the results of this thesis show that FEA is reliable in comparing masticatory system functioning and point to how variations in morphology impact skeletal performance.


Toro-Ibacache, M. V. (2013). A finite element study of the human cranium : the impact of morphological variation on biting performance. (Thesis). Hull York Medical School, the University of Hull and the University of York. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 6, 2014
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Medicine
Public URL
Additional Information Hull York Medical School, The University of Hull and University of York
Award Date Dec 1, 2013


Thesis (3.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2013 Toro-Ibacache, María Viviana. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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