January 19, 2012
When Dr. Lachman and Dr. Tun reviewed the results, they were surprised to discover that into middle age and beyond, people could make up for educational disadvantages encountered earlier in life. Everyone in the study who regularly did more to challenge their brains — reading, writing, attending lectures or completing word puzzles — did better on fluid intelligence tests than their counterparts who did less.
As it turns out, one essential element of mental fitness has already been identified. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life,” says Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University who specializes in aging. For those in midlife and beyond, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, adding a new twist to the cost-benefit analysis of higher education — for young students as well as those thinking about returning to school.
Erik says: There are a number of good studies that indicate that learning to dance and playing an instrument also challenges the brain in beneficial ways.