Does a college degree insure against memory problems?

January 12th, 2010 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 12 (IANS) If you lack a college degree, you’re likely to be at a higher risk of developing memory problems.
It has been well documented that those with such a degree possess cognitive advantage over their less qualified counterparts, in middle and old age.

Now, a national study from Brandeis University shows that those with less schooling can significantly compensate for poorer education by engaging in mental exercises that includes word games, puzzles, reading and lectures.

“The lifelong benefits of higher education for memory in later life are quite impressive, but we do not clearly understand how and why these effects last so long,” said Margie Lachman, psychologist at Brandeis, who led the study.

“Among individuals with low education, those who engaged in reading, writing, attending lectures, doing word games or puzzles once or week or more had memory scores similar to people with more education,” said Lachman.

The study, called Midlife in the United States, assessed 3,343 men and women between the ages of 32 and 84 years, with a mean age of 56 years.

Almost 40 percent of the participants had at least a four-year college degree. Researchers evaluated how the participants performed in two cognitive areas, verbal memory and executive function-brain processes involved in planning, abstract thinking and cognitive flexibility.

Participants were given a battery of tests, including tests of verbal fluency, word recall, and backward counting, said a university release.

These findings were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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