A new study from the University of Toronto suggests that higher education -- and lots of it -- may prevent memory loss as we age.
The study involved putting groups of young adults (aged 18 to 30) and older adults (65 and up) through various memory tests. At the same time, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity in the two groups. Later, results were compared based on educational attainment.
The brain imaging showed that in older adults taking memory tests, more years of education were associated with more active frontal lobes -- the opposite of what happened in young adults. The researchers believe that education strengthens the ability to "call in the reserves" of mental prowess found in that part of the brain.
The study is being released this month in Neuropsychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.
Cheryl Grady, co-author of the study, said, "Many studies have now shown that frontal activity is greater in old adults, compared to young; our work suggests that this effect is related to the educational level in the older participants. The higher the education, the more likely the older adult is to recruit frontal regions, resulting in a better memory performance."