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Research proves education prevents disability from brain injury

Causes of traumatic brain injury fatalities in the United States in 2005.
Causes of traumatic brain injury fatalities in the United States in 2005.
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The more years of education a person has is indicative of how quickly that person can recover from traumatic brain injury and how well that person can resume normal life activities. This is the conclusion of research conducted by Dr. Eric B. Schneider of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and colleagues. The study was reported in the April 23, 2014, issue of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 769 people that had received a serious traumatic brain injury from an automobile accident or a fall. All participants in the study were over 23 years of age. Twenty-four percent of the participants did not finish high school, 51 percent of the participants finished high school and had some college education but no degree, and 25 percent of the study group had a college degree. All participants were followed with physical, mental, and psychological testing for at least a year after the person had a severe brain injury.

After a year of study that included rehabilitation therapy, 28 percent of the participants were able to return to normal life activities and demonstrated no signs of any disability resulting from their traumatic brain injury. Only 10 percent of the people with no high school education were disability free. Thirty-one percent of the people with some college education were considered disability free and 39 percent of people with a college degree were disability free.

People with a college education were seven times more likely to recover from a traumatic brain injury than people that did not finish high school. People who had some college education were five times more likely to return to a normal life with no disability after a traumatic brain injury than people that had not finished high school. The researchers claim that cognitive reserve is responsible in part for the difference in recovery rates.

Cognitive reserve theory asserts that education increases the number of interconnections between different areas of the brain. The brains that have more cognitive reserve can maintain function and recover function faster. Education increases cognitive reserve. The same results have been seen in people with brain disease like Alzheimer's disease. People with higher levels of education are more readily able to fend off the damage done by Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers note that this is the first time that education and the ability to recover from traumatic brain injury have been investigated. More study is planned. One should note that the cost of a college education is much less than the cost of treatment and hospitalization for decades due to traumatic brain injury.