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Can traumatic brain injury recovery be a matter of degrees?

One of the benefits of a college degree is that you’re more likely to earn a higher income while you’re working. But according to a new study, a college degree can help you even if you’re prevented from working by a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Research shows that people with college degrees are more likely to recover from TBI without disability than those who don’t pursue higher education at institutions such as the University of Colorado at Denver. 

The study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology included observations of 769 people who had sustained traumatic brain injuries. After 12 months, 219 had recovered sufficiently to resume their careers or academic pursuits.

In fact, those with college degrees were seven times more likely to fully recover than those who had dropped out of high school.

One researcher said the difference can be found in the “cognitive reserve” college graduates build up by engaging in intellectual pursuits. It’s not that the brains of graduates are bigger, but rather that they use their gray matter in challenging ways. Those challenges, in turn, strengthen and forge neural paths that can make recovery from TBI easier.

The researcher noted that “cognitive reserve” isn’t something only college graduates develop. Rather, it can be developed in anyone who undertakes activities that force them to tackle new ideas and fresh concepts. The activities can include anything from learning a new language to completing crossword puzzles.

Unfortunately, in many cases no college degree can prevent TBI from leaving a person unable to continue working. For them, the financial assistance from Social Security Disability Insurance can be critical. For many, an experienced SSDI attorney will make the difference in the complex appeals process.  

Source: KABC, "Study: College grads heal brain injury faster," May 28, 2014

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