High school education still protects cognition 60 years later

Credit: Unsplash+

A new study has found that attending a high-quality school can have a positive impact on cognitive function later in life.

The study involved more than 2,200 adults who attended U.S. high schools in the early 1960s and found that those who attended higher-quality schools had better cognitive function 60 years later.

While previous studies have found a correlation between the number of years spent in school and cognitive function later in life, this study is one of the first to examine the impact of educational quality on cognition.

The study was led by Jennifer Manly, Ph.D., a professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Dominika Šeblová, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia.

The researchers used data from Project Talent, a 1960 survey of high school students across the United States, and follow-up data collected in the Project Talent Aging Study.

The study examined relationships between six indicators of school quality and several measures of cognitive performance in participants nearly 60 years after they left high school.

The researchers found that attending a school with a higher number of teachers with graduate training was the most consistent predictor of better later-life cognition, especially language fluency.

Other indicators of school quality were associated with some, but not all, measures of cognitive performance.

Manly and Šeblová say that there are many reasons why attending schools with well-trained teachers may affect later-life cognition.

“Instruction provided by more experienced and knowledgeable teachers might be more intellectually stimulating and provide additional neural or cognitive benefits,” Šeblová says.

“Attending higher-quality schools may also influence life trajectory, leading to university education and greater earnings, which are in turn linked to better cognition in later life.”

The researchers also found that racial equity in school quality has never been achieved in the United States, with Black participants more likely to have attended schools of lower quality.

This issue is still a substantial problem, as a 2016 survey found that U.S. schools attended by non-white students had twice as many inexperienced teachers as schools attended by predominantly white students.

“Racial inequalities in school quality may contribute to persistent disparities in late-life cognitive outcomes for decades to come,” Manly adds.

The findings of this study suggest that increased investment in high-quality schools, especially those that serve Black children, could be a powerful strategy to improve cognitive health among older adults in the United States.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and Vitamin E may help prevent Parkinson’s disease

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and strawberries could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.