Finite element scaling analysis of human craniofacial growth

J. T. Richtsmeier, J. M. Cheverud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The study of form change is central to traditional cephalometric research. Unfortunately, traditional cephalometric studies operate within systems of measurement that are based on registration and orientation. Measurements produced in registered systems are insufficient for the craniofacial biologist who is interested in locating morphological differences between forms. In this article we apply a registration-free method called finite element scaling analysis in a study of the form change occurring during growth of the normal human craniofacial complex. The method provides form change data that can be summarized at various morphological levels. Twenty normal male individuals are used to analyze the form change that occurs from age 4 to ages 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15 years. The magnitude and direction of growth expressed as shape and size change specific to craniofacial landmarks are presented. Although exceptions occur, our analysis shows that localized size change is, on the average, greater than localized shape change. The relation between size and shape change during growth shows allometry (shape change increasing during growth along with size change) but at a lesser magnitude and slower rate. We conclude that although shape change occurs throughout ontogeny, the magnitude and rate of shape change in relation to size change diminishes as age increases. This analysis represents new insights into the understanding of human craniofacial growth at various levels of morphological integration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-323
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Craniofacial Genetics and Developmental Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics


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