College degrees may have an unexpected benefit: helping people recover from serious traumatic brain injury, NPR reports. A study of 769 adults found that a year after injury, 10% without a high school education had fully recovered, compared to 39% with a college degree. Those with advanced degrees fared even better. "It's a very dramatic difference," says lead author Eric Schneider at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. The study suggests that higher education helps brains "find ways around the damage" of an injury.
How so? Schneider points to "cognitive reserve," the notion that education strengthens brain-cell networks linked to memory and learning. That "reserve" may help people overcome brain injury, just as it may help keep Alzheimer's at bay. Those wanting to maintain a strong cognitive reserve can pursue lifelong learning, stay physically fit and socially active, Schneider says. But the study found no causal link between education and brain-injury recovery, a neurologist tells CBS News. He says less-educated patients may have just been less motivated to return to work—one measure of recovery used in the study.