Education is the brain's ally, even years later!

Studying is of course excellent for the brain, but for how long? Researchers have studied this question, and have revealed evidence of the positive long-term effect of education. Several decades after leaving the benches of learning, older people were still benefiting from an improvement in their cognitive functions.

The team of Nicole Schneeweis, a researcher at the University of Linz (Austria), studied the brain capacities of a group of seniors of the same age but with differing levels of education.

The data used came from the SHARE survey (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe). The information used was related to individuals of around 60 years of age who had completed studies independent of their will (connected with reforms to obligatory schooling in the 1950s and 1960s). The reason for this second criterion was to avoid personal cognitive characteristics affecting the results, thereby making it possible to draw direct conclusions about the impact of education on the brain.

The results show that education tends to significantly improve cognitive functions, and this effect continues with age. To be more precise, the memory scores turned out to be better in people who remained in education for longer. Moreover, the study revealed a protective effect of education: it apparently reduces cognitive decline, in particular with regard to the person’s ease at expressing himself or herself verbally.
Finally, demographic changes appear to depend more on people health and how they feel mentally than on the exact age of the population.
Source: Nicole Schneeweis et al. Does Education Improve Cognitive Performance Four Decades After School Completion? Demography 2014, 51(2):619-43. doi: 10.1007/s13524-014-0281-1

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