Can education help keep our brains in good shape as we age? Some researchers say it can.
The latest issue of Education Life reports that for those in midlife and beyond, having a college degree seems to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, which could add a new element to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education.
Many researchers believe that human intelligence or brainpower is made up of dozens of various cognitive skills, which are commonly divided into two categories — “fluid intelligence” and “crystallized intelligence.” Fluid intelligence involves the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. exams and tends to peak when we’re in our 20s. Crystallized intelligence includes skills acquired throughout life experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment.
Studies conducted on more than 7,000 people 25 to 74 years old by Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging, found the more years of school people have, the better they tend to perform on mental tests when they’re older.
Up to age 75, “people with college degrees performed on complex tasks like less-educated individuals who were 10 years younger.”
Education was also associated with a longer life and decreased risk of dementia. “The effects of education are dramatic and long term,” Dr. Lachman said.