Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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


Cour­tesy David Lee at The Dai­ly Cal­i­forn­ian


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.

The Study in Context


Leave a Reply...

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Search in our archives

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)