Higher Education Linked to Better Recovery in Brain Injuries

    Brain might be more resilient with advanced schooling

    Better-educated people appear to be significantly more likely to recover from a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), suggesting that a brain’s “cognitive reserve” may play a role in helping people get back to their previous lives, new Johns Hopkins research shows.

    The researchers, reporting in the journal Neurology, found that those with the equivalent of at least a college education are seven times more likely than those who didn’t finish high school to be disability-free one year after a TBI serious enough to warrant inpatient time in a hospital and rehabilitation facility.

    The findings, while new among TBI investigators, mirror those in Alzheimer’s disease research, in which higher educational attainment — believed to be an indicator of a more active, or more effective, use of the brain’s “muscles” and therefore its cognitive reserve — has been linked to slower progression of dementia.

    “After this type of brain injury, some patients experience lifelong disability, while others with very similar damage achieve a full recovery,” says study leader Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research. “Our work suggests that cognitive reserve — the brain's ability to be resilient in the face of insult or injury — could account for the difference.”

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