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Large study highlights the cognitive enhancement value of both higher education and lifelong learning

 

Cour­tesy David Lee at The Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian

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UC Berke­ley study links cog­ni­tive longevi­ty to high­er edu­ca­tion (The Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian):

A study led by cam­pus researchers found that high­er lev­els of edu­ca­tion are linked to lat­er ages of peak cog­ni­tive performance…The team was able to use anony­mous data gath­ered from almost 200,000 sub­scribers to Lumos­i­ty, an online cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram, whose users con­sent­ed that their results could be used for sci­en­tif­ic research. Lumos­i­ty became involved in the study through its Human Cog­ni­tion Project, which aims to pro­vide researchers with cog­ni­tive data from Lumosity’s train­ing tools…

Accord­ing to the study, the test pop­u­la­tion was split into edu­ca­tion­al cat­e­gories, with min­i­mal dif­fer­ences in per­for­mance between those with a bachelor’s degree and a high school diplo­ma com­pared to dif­fer­ences between those with a doc­tor­ate and a high school diplo­ma. For each edu­ca­tion­al cat­e­go­ry, the data also indi­cat­ed that peak cog­ni­tive per­for­mance occurs around the age of grad­u­a­tion…

When the team first start­ed the study, it had three poten­tial pre­dic­tions: that there would be no improve­ment at all, that peo­ple who start­ed with a low­er lev­el of edu­ca­tion would improve more or that peo­ple with a high­er edu­ca­tion would learn more. Their results, how­ev­er, showed that every­one was learn­ing more, not just those with high­er lev­els of edu­ca­tion.”

The Study

Does high­er edu­ca­tion hone cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and learn­ing effi­ca­cy? Find­ings from a large and diverse sam­ple (PLOS One)

  • Abstract: Attend­ing school is a mul­ti­fac­eted expe­ri­ence. Stu­dents are not only exposed to new knowl­edge but are also immersed in a struc­tured envi­ron­ment in which they need to respond flex­i­bly in accor­dance with chang­ing task goals, keep rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion in mind, and con­stant­ly tack­le nov­el prob­lems. To quan­ti­fy the cumu­la­tive effect of this expe­ri­ence, we exam­ined ret­ro­spec­tive­ly and prospec­tive­ly, the rela­tion­ships between edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment and both cog­ni­tive per­for­mance and learn­ing. We ana­lyzed data from 196,388 sub­scribers to an online cog­ni­tive train­ing pro­gram. These sub­scribers, ages 15–60, had com­plet­ed eight behav­ioral assess­ments of exec­u­tive func­tion­ing and rea­son­ing at least once. Con­trol­ling for mul­ti­ple demo­graph­ic and engage­ment vari­ables, we found that high­er lev­els of edu­ca­tion pre­dict­ed bet­ter per­for­mance across the full age range, and mod­u­lat­ed per­for­mance in some cog­ni­tive domains more than oth­ers (e.g., rea­son­ing vs. pro­cess­ing speed). Dif­fer­ences were mod­er­ate for Bachelor’s degree vs. High School (d = 0.51), and large between Ph.D. vs. Some High School (d = 0.80). Fur­ther, the ages of peak cog­ni­tive per­for­mance for each edu­ca­tion­al cat­e­go­ry close­ly fol­lowed the typ­i­cal range of ages at grad­u­a­tion. This result is con­sis­tent with a cumu­la­tive effect of recent edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ences, as well as a decre­ment in per­for­mance as com­ple­tion of school­ing becomes more dis­tant. To begin to char­ac­ter­ize the direc­tion­al­i­ty of the rela­tion­ship between edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment and cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, we con­duct­ed a prospec­tive lon­gi­tu­di­nal analy­sis. For a sub­set of 69,202 sub­scribers who had com­plet­ed 100 days of cog­ni­tive train­ing, we test­ed whether the degree of nov­el learn­ing was asso­ci­at­ed with their lev­el of edu­ca­tion. High­er edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment pre­dict­ed big­ger gains, but the dif­fer­ences were small (d = 0.04–0.37). Alto­geth­er, these results point to the long-last­ing trace of an effect of pri­or cog­ni­tive chal­lenges but sug­gest that new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties can reduce per­for­mance gaps relat­ed to one’s edu­ca­tion­al his­to­ry.
  • Cita­tion: Guer­ra-Car­ril­lo B, Katovich K, Bunge SA (2017) Does high­er edu­ca­tion hone cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing and learn­ing effi­ca­cy? Find­ings from a large and diverse sam­ple. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0182276. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182276

The Study in Context

 

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Peak Performance, Technology

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