Degrees for Brain Health

Challenge


When you were growing up, you probably knew it was good to stay in school. So, you studied for tests and listened to your teachers. But, you probably didn’t know that going to school would protect your brain as a much older adult.

In addition to landing you a career and giving your parents bragging rights, new science suggests that higher levels of education are protective against cognitive decline. A study on adult development and aging in Germany found higher education, or education beyond high school, served as a strong protective factor against dementia. And it wasn’t just a small protection. Participants that completed higher education showed an 85% reduction of risk for both mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

How does it work? It probably has something to do with cognitive reserve, or your brain’s ability to recover from injury to the brain, like the degenerative plaques associated with Alzheimer's. As you receive a formal education, you flex a lot of brain muscle. Research suggests this type of cognitive activity can keep your brain healthy, even as you age.

If you didn’t go to school beyond high school, don’t fret. The type of cognitive stimulation acquired through formal education can be found elsewhere, too. Cognitive activity of all kinds is linked to a reduced risk of dementia. Stimulating your brain promotes neuroplasticity and longevity of your neurons.

Have you learned anything new lately?

References

  • Sattler, C., Toro, P., Schönknecht, P., & Schröder, J. (2012). Cognitive activity, education and socioeconomic status as preventive factors for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Psychiatry Research, 196(1), 90–95. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.11.012