A US study of 750 patients admitted to hospital after head trauma found that those who had been to university were 7 times more likely to resume their old life without disability compared to those patients who hadn’t finished high school.
The subjects of the research had suffered moderate to sever head injury and in 70% of cases the injury had been severe enough to cause bleeding in they brain. After recovery only 25% were classified as being disability free.
And those with most education were far more likely to be found in that 25%.
The research was carried out at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine by Dr Eric Schneider who said the results fitted a theory about how the brain copes with damage known as “cognitive reserve“.
The idea has been around for a while and is usually related to late-life dementia. Patients who have been high functioning throughout their lives, including their education and occupational complexity, seem to cope better in the face of the damage to their brains caused by the dementia.
Schneider says it may be due to those patients having more brain plasticity with an ability to form new, alternative, connections in the brain.
The results could also be due to the criteria used to assess who was disability free i.e. those who could return to their jobs and pick up where they left off. People with different educational backgrounds do different types of jobs. Balance is one of the things commonly affected by brain damage and that matters less for a desk job than for one involving manual work.
It could also be that people with more education were more motivated and disciplined to succeed in their recovery.