Researchers have found many factors that can determine how quickly a person recovers from a traumatic brain injury, such as age and gender. But, one of the most important considerations in deciding how quickly you bounce back may be how far you went in school, according to a new study.
The study, reported in the journal Neurology, found that people with high levels of education were seven times more likely to have no measurable disability a year after their injury compared to similar patients that dropped out of high school.
“It’s a very dramatic difference,” says Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins and the lead author of a new study. He believes the study suggests that people with more education have brains that are better able to “find ways around the damage” caused by an injury.
The study compared the medical records of 769 adults who suffered traumatic brain injuries serious enough to call for an inpatient hospital stay and rehabilitation. A year after the injury, only 10 percent of those who didn’t finish high school reported no disability, while 39 percent of those with enough education to earn a college degree were disability free after the same time. People with advanced degrees performed even higher.
Schneider suggests the difference may be due to something referred to as “cognitive reserve” in the brain. The lead author compares the concept to physical fitness, which can help a person recover from a physical injury. Similarly, those with a lot of cognitive reserve may be better equipped to recover from a brain injury.