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New study highlights the importance of a good education

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2014 10:50 AM

When most people create a list of all the benefits that come from a good education, a majority of the items involve career success or financial achievement. However, being a lifelong learner might have cognitive and physical impacts as well. A study published in the journal Neurology revealed that people who have a high education status recover from traumatic brain injury faster and more completely than those with a weaker schooling background. 

The study methods
Researchers performed a retrospective study of 769 patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries. All of the people analyzed were hospitalized for their injury and had to undergo a rehabilitation period. Each of the patients represented one of several categories: those who dropped out of high school, those who completed high school, people who earned a college degree and people who earned a finishing degree. 

One year after the injury occurred, 10 percent of the patients who did not complete high school were fully recovered and had no disability. That percentage is low compared to patients who earned a bachelor's degree, as 39 percent of them had no disability resulting from the injury. The more advanced the group's degree, the larger the percentage of patients who recovered (the most recovery was seen in the doctorate group).

How it works
Researchers believe the dramatic results are because of a concept called cognitive reserve. A person who has spent much of their life learning has built up brain power that can circumnavigate their traumatic injury. It's like recovering quickly from a physical injury when you're an athlete. Most research on cognitive reserve comes from studies on Alzheimer's and dementia.

Learning for life
The knowledge that pursuing higher education may protect the brain during traumatic injury is just one of many reasons to be a lifelong student. Of course, earning more money and getting a better job is also a valid motivator. If your students are thinking about college, you should make sure they are prepared for the rigors of post-secondary education (not all students are ready for this big step). Fortunately, schools operating under the Common Core State Standards are attempting to better prepare kids for college and careers, no matter how many degrees they want to earn.

"I'm not sure we can quite say you should stay in school based on this study alone. But if one looks at the dementia literature, maintaining the health of your brain by being actively involved in your life is important," Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and study author, told CBS.