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FALL2014COMMUNIQU13RESEARCHbyPatGrauerThespecterofpeoplefalselyimprisonedforchildabusehauntsRogerHautaUniversityDistinguishedProfessorinmechanicalengineeringandradiologyatMSUCOMandhiscolleagueToddFentonassociateprofessorofanthropology.Forsixyearstheyhavebeeninvestigatingwaystodistinguishaccidentalfromintentionalskulldamageespeciallyinchildrenundertwoyearsofage.TheyarebuildinganationaldatabaseofskullfracturepatternsanalogoustongerprintandDNAdatabasesthatcanbeusedbymedicalexaminersprosecutorsanddefendantsincaseswhereabuseissuspected.ThepartnershipwhichalsoincludesAnilJainaUniversityDistinguishedProfessorincomputerscienceandengineeringwasfortuitous.HauthasbeenstudyinghumanbiomechanicsfordecadesandFentonisoneofonlythreeboard-certiedforensicanthropologistsinMichigan.Betweenthemtheyhadthebreadthandconnectionstotakeapracticalproblemaddressitscienticallyandprovidethedatatochangepoliciesandproceduresontheground.IworkcloselywithmedicalexaminersandlawenforcementFentonsaidandImoftencalledtoidentifyhumanremainsandtoevaluateskeletaltrauma.Rogerhastheskillstoassesshowthingsbreakbiomechanicallytoprovidethescienticdatanecessarytocreatethedatabase.UndergrantsfromtheNationalInstituteofJusticetheyhavesubjectedskullstoknownforcesfromknownimplementsandsurfacesatknownvelocitiesandthenrecordedthepatternofthefracturesthatoccurred.Theyhaveusedpigletskullsallsubjectsinthestudydiednaturallypriortotheresearchbecausetheyhavebeenshowntomatchcloselythemechanicalpropertiesofthebonesinyoungchildrensskulls.Twounexpectedresultshaveemergedfromtheirstudies.Firsttheyhavefoundthatthecommonassumptionthateachblowtotheheadcausesoneandonlyonefracturehasprovenfalse.Secondtheyhavediscoveredthatcounterintuitivelythefracturesdontalwaystravelawayfromtheimpactsite.Sometimestheytraveltowardit.WhathappensHautsaysisthatwithastrongenoughimpacttheentireskulldeforms.Withthisout-bendingyoumaynotevengetafractureattheimpactsite.Ifyouhittheskullataparietalbonethefracturestypicallyoccuralongtheperipheryoftheskullsutures.Itsabitlikesmashingacookietheoutsideedgescrackrst.Whatthismeansintheworldofprosecutorsanddefendantsissignicant.Ifavictimexhibitedsaythreeskullfracturestheoldpresumptionwasthattheywerecausedbythreeimpacts.Threeimpactswereconsideredastrongindicationofabuse.Theresearchshattersthatassumption.StressingtheimportanceofworkingcloselywithmedicalexaminersFentonhassenthisgraduatestudentsto15oftheirofcesacrossthecountrythemedicalexaminershaveprovidedcasedataon300infant-childcranialfractures.Theteamisusingmachinelearningpatternrecognitionsoftwareinitiallydevelopedonthepigletdatabasetodevelopacomputerizedmethodofassociatingspecicfracturepatternswiththemedical-forensichistoriesineachofthesecases.Theultimategoaliscreatingascienceofstatisticalfracturesignatures.AsmedicalexaminersincreasinglysharetheirinformationandimagesinacommondatabaseandthealgorithmdevelopedbyHautandFentonisapplieditsanticipatedthatthefracturesignatureswillbecomemoreandmorerened.TheforensicscommunityneedsmorebasicsciencemoreunderstandingofbasicforceapplicationsHautsaid.Thereareinitiativesinforensicstoteamupwithengineersandpatternrecognitionspecialists.Itsextremelychallengingtogureoutwhathappenedtoanindividualbutthesepartnershipsareprovingveryfruitful.HautandFentonPiecingtogetherthemysteriesofskullfracturesRogerHautleftandToddFentondiscussnewndingsrelatedtoskullfracturesinchildren.