Much like a finger leaves its own unique print to help identify a person, researchers are now discovering that skull fractures leave certain signatures that can help investigators better determine what caused the injury.
Implications from the Michigan State University research could help with the determination of truth in child abuse cases, potentially resulting in very different outcomes.
Michigan State University researchers Roger Haut and Todd Fenton have discovered that a single blow to the head not only causes one fracture, but may also cause several, unconnected fractures in the skull. Pictured are areas of the skull being stressed on impact. As the stresses become more severe and approach levels that might cause fracture, they become yellow to orange, and finally red for very intense levels of stress. Importantly, an area of high-intensity cranial stress develops early and away from the site of actual impact. Implications from the research could help with the determination of truth in child abuse cases, potentially resulting in very different outcomes.
Credit: Michigan State University
Until now, multiple skull fractures meant several points of impact to the head and often were thought to suggest child abuse.
Roger Haut, a University Distinguished Professor in biomechanics, and Todd Fenton, a forensic anthropologist, have now proven this theory false. They've found that a single blow to the head not only causes one fracture, but may also cause several, unconnected fractures in the skull. Additionally, they've discovered that not all fractures start at the point of impact - some actually may begin in a remote location and travel back toward the impact site.
The team's findings were recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
"It's a bit like smashing raw hamburger into a patty on the grill," Haut said. "When you press down on the meat to flatten it, all the edges crack. That's what can happen when a head injury occurs."
Because piglet skulls have similar mechanical properties as infant human skulls - meaning they bend and break in similar ways - Haut and Fenton used the already deceased specimens in their research and found they were able to classify the different fracture patterns with a high degree of accuracy.
"Our impact scenarios on the piglet skulls gave us about an 82 percent accuracy rate, while on the older skulls, it improved to about 95 percent," Fenton said.
To help them get to this level of accuracy, both researchers teamed up with Anil Jain, a University Distinguished Professor in computer science and engineering at MSU, to develop a mathematical algorithm to help classify the fractures.
"A major issue in child death cases is you never really know what happened," Haut said. "The prosecutor may have one idea, the medical examiner another, and the defendant a completely different scenario."
Fenton and Haut's close relationship with medical examiners often results in them being called upon in certain, hard-to-determine cases. They've used this new knowledge to help solve these cases, but both are also looking to use Jain's algorithm in an online resource that will provide even more assistance to investigators.
The team is currently developing a database, or Fracture Printing Interface, that will allow forensic anthropologists and investigators to upload human fracture patterns from different abuse cases and help them determine what most likely caused an injury.
"We will never know with 100 percent probability what happened in many of these cases, but this interface will give us a higher chance of figuring that out," Haut said.
Their research has been funded through multiple grants from the National Institute of Justice.
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.
Sarina Gleason | EurekAlert!
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences