The cranial cavity is a space found inside the cranium of the human skull. There are several organs and structures located within this cavity, including the brain. There are a total of eight cranial bones which are fused together in order to form this area.
The hypophysis cerebri, more commonly referred to as the pituitary gland, is found within the cranial cavity. This gland secretes a variety of hormones which are responsible for many bodily functions. For example, physical growth and sexual function are regulated by the pituitary gland, as is the body's regulation of temperature. Proper functioning of the thyroid gland and the production of breast milk are still other functions made possible by the pituitary gland.
Portions of various spinal and cranial nerves reside inside the cranial cavity as well. The cranial nerves are responsible for providing sensory information necessary for such things as taste, smell, sight, and the ability to hear. The abilities to speak and chew are also aided by the cranial nerves. The nerves of the spine process sensory and motor signals, primarily providing normal sensation and function for the arms and legs.
Along with various blood vessels supplying the brain and other areas of the cranial cavity, the meninges is also found in this area of the head. This is a group of membranes that surrounds the central nervous system. When an infection develops in the meninges, a potentially fatal illness called meningitis may develop.
Cerebrospinal fluid is present inside of the cranial cavity as well. This is a clear fluid that circulates throughout the entire central nervous system. The cerebrospinal fluid acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord. This prevents damage from occurring during normal movements, such as walking, as well as minor falls or other injuries. Another responsibility of the cerebrospinal fluid is to deliver nutrients to the various parts of the central nervous system. This fluid also works to remove waste materials from the brain and spinal cord.
Due to the number of structures located in the cranial cavity, a traumatic injury to the head has the potential to cause major damage. For this reason, it is important to receive immediate medical attention following a head injury. Mild damage may have few, if any, negative effects. On the other end of the spectrum, severe damage to the contents of this cavity can lead to permanent nerve damage or even death.