Education’s Role in Rebound from Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury patients with more schooling recovered more quickly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) There are lots of reasons to get as much as education possible. That learning may help the brain heal from physical hurt.

Recovery from moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) came faster for people with more education than for those with less education, according to a new study.

"Protect your brain from injury."

This study’s lead author was Eric B. Schneider, PhD, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

For this study, Dr. Schneider and his research team selected 769 people who were at least 23 years old and, between September 2007 and January 2001, were enrolled in the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and US Department of Education’s TBI Model Systems Database.

Each of these 769 people had been diagnosed with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. The injuries resulted mainly from a fall or automobile collision.

These researchers traced the health of those 769 persons for one year. All of those injured people were initially treated in the emergency room, then later hospitalized and enrolled in an inpatient rehabilitation program.

Of those 769 individuals, 185 (24 percent of the entire group) did not complete high school, and 390 (51 percent) study participants had either finished high school or finished high school plus up to three years of college study.

Of the remainder, 194 persons (25 percent) had at least a bachelor’s degree or had 16 or more years of college learning.

A year after they were injured, 214 of the participants (28 percent) were free of brain-related disability and had gone back to work or school, the researchers found. Of the 214 people, 18 had no high school diploma, 120 had some college education but no college degree and 76 had a college degree.

That meant that 9.7 percent of all study participants who didn’t finish high school were free of disabilities after 12 months. Of the group with some college education but no college degree, 30.8 percent were free of disabilities after 12 months. Of the group with a college degree, 39.2 percent were free of disabilities after 12 months.

“People with education equal to a college degree were more than seven times more likely to fully recover from their injury than people who did not finish high school. And people with some college education were nearly five times more likely to fully recover than those without enough education to earn a high school diploma," said Dr. Schneider in an announcement about this study

“We need to learn more about how education helps to protect the brain and how it affects injury and resilience," he said. "Exploring these relationships will hopefully help us to identify ways to help people recover better from traumatic brain injury.”

These researchers did note that Alzheimer’s patients with more education tend to have fewer symptoms of the disease, even when their brains and the brains of people with symptoms show the same physical signs of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, also is marked by severe declines in bodily functions.

Regarding the link between educational levels and recovery from TBI, Dr. Schneider and team wrote, “Research is needed to unravel the complex relationships among pre-injury variables, including [the theory of] cognitive reserve, injury severity and post-injury reparative and compensatory factors.”

This study was published online April 23 in Neurology.

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the U.S. Department of Education provided access to this TBI data.

These researchers reported that some members of their team have gotten research grants from the US Department of Defense and Johns Hopkins' Brain Sciences Institute, but had no financial investments or other ethical conflicts that would shape study design, outcome or analysis.

Review Date: 
April 23, 2014
Last Updated:
April 24, 2014