"People with More Education May Recover Better from Traumatic Brain Injury" ????

My husband just pointed this out to me: aan.com/PressRoom/Home/Pres...

It's a paper in a scientific journal, and what it's saying is given by the title.

I am an academic, a university lecturer, and I had a TBI in 2005. I spent weeks in a coma and 8 months in hospital, but I was luckily able to go back to work after 18 months. I consider myself very lucky, and it has never occurred to me to base my incredibly good recovery on my education.

I suspect this will offend some people. I am not saying that our education has anything to do with our recovery, but I just thought I would let you know about this study.

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32 Replies

  • I saw this too. Unfortunately I could never go back to airtraffic control but I have got a different job. I was told that being ex service personnel helps too as we are used to doing as we are told and work well in routines, so less likely to argue and get on with our 'job' at 110%.

    Sometimes I think it is just down to luck and ability of our body to repair and reroute.

  • I think there's a lot in this, I think that the more you've used and trained your brain, the more connections that have been made and the more you're used to training and using your brain, learning new skills etc then itll be easier to slot back into that mode to help you recover.

    It's still true that it depends on the extent of the damage and where in the brain as to the final outcome.

    I know some people will be upset by that but it's not meant that way, I personally will never get back to work but it doesn't stop me trying new skills and trying to re-acquire old skills.

  • I agree, Kirk, the brain is a large complicated organ, and each brain injury affects a different place, and they are all of different severity, so of course some heal more easily than others. I don't put my recovery down to being an academic, I put it all down to luck!

  • I generally agree with danslatete and Kirk5w7's comments. I think, knowledge, commonsense and determination play a bigger part than just being intelligent having a degree from Uni. My eldest son (born 1968) was/ is extremely intelligent - was even a suitable mensa candidate at age 7. Commonsense, none, - would he cope with a BI - no Way!

    Its as much about the path you'v led through all your life that helps you refresh / retrain/ re-whatever you need o do to get on with your life in the here and now - and yes 'we all need a little help from our friends' - a very popular song when I was much younger than now, I had my BI in a foreign country 5 wks after walking out on 45+ marriage over here last year - and both above Dans and Kirk have lived this last year with me - 'i failed my 11+, went to secondary type schools, have only english language qualifications, and never went to uni - although I encouraged 2 sons to work hard enough to gt there to give them a better standard of life - is the quality of it better than mine - financially yes but fr the rest? Prob not - because BI takes no account of academic qualifications.

    I think its the drive, will-power and personality of the person, - , that will determine how good or otherwise their recovery will be, yes helped by previous work situations/ethics.etc also - sorry, but's that's my considered response but also based upon what I write bellow - As to the where and extent - yes the where determines which brains cells are affected and from which side of the brain/body any problems may occur - extent makes them lesser or worse brain injuries - but there are still ramifications that will take no account of 'educational qualifications. Stress - both previous and even afterwards also affects the brain and life on an ongoing daily basis and how it processes and then transmits to your body all the coping mechanisms! Family genes, and upbringing are what have made us the peope we are now.Despite several frequent 'oh dear me posts' and yes another one to come soon from me - I wear myl heart on my sleeve and need to offload to people who can understand and relate - just as I try to help others who find themelves in a bad place on any given day - all because its how our BI's have affected us and our reactions to given situations I don't disparage your post, and don't take offence in fact I wish you could send some of thuse rplies on to the scientist and The Guardian - none of whom probably ever had a brain injury! I'm really pleased to read you have recovered so well, when so many others here on Headway suffer from effects of brain injuries - caused by a variety of reasons, for years and years.

  • I haven't read the article yet but during rehab period I was told that my intelligence was the reason found it so hard to accept the limitations I now have post TBI and that it would have been easier for me if I were less intelligent as less intelligent people adapt better to their changed circumstances and abilities. A friend and fellow intelligent TBI survivor ;) was told a similar thing only hers included a reference to ignorance and happy pigs... I am still as shocked by this today as I was back then.

  • I would not take too much notice of this as I have found that a lot of university graduates have very little common sense and cant chew gum and walk at the same time, I used to meet these so called educated through the work I did but there was exceptions, I met someone who ran a graduate job club she said you would not believe the things that these graduates said and could not do like fill in a form , I have met some very intelligent educated and clever people and most never went to university, so I must conclude that all brain injuries and people are different and it is down to luck how you survive, amen.

  • My worry with reports like this is that it gives certain people (legal people, insurance companies etc.) another excuse to question the validity of a persons on going symptoms i.e. your intelligent so you should have recovered by now are you malingering or faking it?

  • The idea of cognitive reserve was mentioned to me quite a while ago as a possible factor in my good recovery. I think it's important to make clear that this isn't just about if you went to university or not, the study uses educational level as a marker it doesn't mean that everyone with a degree will do better or that if you haven't been to university you haven't got a hope. The idea of cognitive reserve is that if you have had an active brain and spent time learning things (maths, violin, map reading, ballet- anything) you will have a more plastic brain which can re-learn easier after a TBI. Nothing to do with common sense or how could you are at any particular subject just an encouragement to keep an active mind. It's interesting that the same kind of difference is found with progressive brain conditions like Alzheimers too.

  • This is what I meant Skipper, I find it difficult to put into words today exactly what I mean, it's all about how much and how you use your brain, intelligence is a different thing.

    My recovery is down to all the ways I push my brain, the new ( and old ) tasks I keep trying and repeating. It's how children learn, it makes new pathways, so hopefully will help recovery xxxx

  • I think keeping a mind active is different to repairing an injury

    taking you Alzheimer's analogy -

    an athlete can maintain fitness by training, however if they stop training they will loose there abilities they may still be able to run but not at the standard before. Likewise if any athlete gets injured they will repair (without their specialist care) the same as us.

    I continually used to learn new skills and knowledge and work 100+ house per week. I had a relatively minor accident and no matter how much I try and push myself - I can't get myself much better

  • I feel like people with more education are just able to compensate a hec of a whole lot better.

  • I don't accept that a university education develops the brain any differently than study by those with a thirst for knowledge in less formal settings.

    And In terms of recovery, I believe it's our character and determination which keeps us striving daily to reach our goals, rather than previous education.

  • Absolutely, Cat3!

  • Young people seem to physically improve more rapidly than us older ones, but a good education at the school of hard knocks and setbacks can give us the bloody mindedness to keep going one step at a time and the resourcefulness to think of solutions to problems.

    People with a university background are more likely to have private medical insurance, critical illness policies and have substantial savings, so perhaps get better/more rehabilitation less stress in the first couple of years.

    I think it's a mistake to generalise.

  • In general, I agree, Stardrop (although we have no private medical stuff - but I think the NHS is wonderful!). I think a lot of my improvement is down to determination (when I saw an improvement, I would practice it again and again), but i think the majority is just down to luck/

  • Stardrop, I always love your contributions. Tottally Brilliant.

  • Interesting study/idea but they really need more numbers in the study basing it on 219 folks to verify and to be sure other factors to play with such a small data set.




  • A higher premorbid intelligence is generally associated with greater recovery.

  • I don't think having an academic education is necessarily an indication of high intelligence or an automatic assumption of any.

    I think being intelligent can work against you because you can't cohesively think yourself through the problems when your brain doesn't work properly. In my vase it was compounded by severe emotional trauma from the accident and also the constant chronic pain. All of those have an impact on your recovery.

    Social circumstances have a far greater impact on how well you recover than an academic education.

    Like: access to quality healthcare and support or proper rehabilitation or not.

    I don't talk about my professional past much, because it is usually taken in the wrong way and people become defensive but I worked at the top of the professions directly at main board level of major international companies for the large engineering groups providing facilities for them. I was a highly skilled and qualified consultant designer and project manager with leadership of projects up to £600M in value anywhere in the world.

    I worked with members of the House of Lords for their companies and on their private homes too.

    I worked with scientists and was privileged to see and be involved with projects and technology that the general public never gets to hear about never mind see and be part of.

    I think they have a ridiculous name for us called the professional elite.

    But I hate elitism, you can either do the job or not.

    So no I don't accept the report and it seems at best naive.

    The results of BI are not simple in anyway and are very personal.

    My recent neuropsychology tests showed I am in the upper 90th percentile for some tasks but struggled hopelessly with other simple tests. Daily life is difficult when you don't know how you work and don't know why you don't work.

    Being fairly literate doesn't help much either.

    Another way being intelligent works against you is when you meet low skilled or inexperienced medical staff they look at you and listen and make assumptions because I can sound reasonably coherent at times. But the truth is inside my head is spaghetti junction in rush hour. My voice is speaking but I don't know who is saying it ?

    Trying to explain.

    Now I know you might think this is a bit soft or weak, but please don't because I am certainly not.

    I was a very lucky guy to find someone who is my partner now.

    She is the only person in the world who could glue my head back together. A bit like a large vase that's broken into a hundred small pieces and its hard to find the places where they all go and there will always be bits missing and some bits don't fit too well, but it will never hold water again because its a bit leaky.

    She glued me back together with her infinite love and patience. NO ONE else could have done it better or even at all.

    I was very broken.

    She is the most loving caring and empathic person I have ever seen or met and I have met a very considerable number of people through my career and travel.

    She worked for a brain rehab unit when she was younger.

    We are both lifetime bikers, we live and love the biker lifestyle. My father was a Director at James and Velocette motorcycles in Birmingham in the 1950s. My grandfather was a biker in the 1920s and I have all the photos. So it is in the family.

    Without the love and care of my partner who shares a very similar experience with me, no matter how smart I thought I was, I doubt I would ever have mentally recovered as well as this and this isn't great.

    I can still remember times when I lay in bed and she just held my head together when it was totally shattered.

    How many times do we read about partners who just don't understand or care?

    We share a very unique and very terrifying experience in separate incidents at least 10 years apart.

    I was homeless when we met.

    We are both victims of hit and run car drivers who left us to die, mashed up at the roadside.

    My partner was on a Ducati 916 and I was on a Suzuki Hayabusa. I died twice on the same day.

    She was lucky too, she was found almost straight away.

    I wasn't found, I had to save my own life when I eventually regained consciousness.

    As far as an ABI or any other major injuries, people know nothing until they have done it themselves.

    This still hurts badly.

    You can quote me on any of this if you wish? I don't mind.

    I was lucky.

    No, more than lucky.

    I lived by a pure miracle.

    Somethings are supposed to be.

    Love and Respect.

  • You say "I was lucky." Oh, yes! That is what I always think, about my accident. Yes, I was unlucky that it happened, but I am so lucky to have recovered as well as I have.

    Did you meet your lady after your accident? How did you meet? You both sound very lucky to have found each other.

  • You are indeed luck to have recovered as well as you have and able to continue in a good career. You are a survivor, its a like a private club almost. Only we can talk and understand each other.

    My 20 year marriage with two children failed because of the total lack of any support not just for me but for them too.

    Many of my severe injuries had not been diagnosed including the ABI this year 13 years after the accident.

    Its fair to say I was very angry with the person who did this and with the police who refused to look for that person. The police are another story and I have no love for them.

    But I had to go away and deal with the hell I was in and leave my family at home. Hard decision to make, to leave for their sake but at the same time knowing or feeling I would probably fail and die somewhere alone. Had to take it all away from them. Banks and HMRC vultures wouldn't let go of me, so I had to draw the fire away from my family. No one cared.... pay up now or else.

    It was hell and I have spared you a lot of what went wrong.

    You know when things are going to go bad? Then they get worse? Then they get really bad? It was one of those situations.

    Because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a nano second in time when the brief imposition of a stranger in my life would totally change the course of my life forever.

    I had a lot of friends and colleagues and you have no idea of how far the collateral damage spread by the act of one selfish person in a nano second of time?

    One of those moments in life when everything you had and held dear to you is just dust passing through the fingers of your open hands as you stand alone in the wilderness? A nano second in time and your life will change forever in ways you have not got the ability to imagine.

    We all make plans for the future and earnings and career and future and where we want to be and we forget that in an instant it can all be gone and you will never see it coming until a second before impact. You lose people, you lose loved ones and you lose that time with people you can never have again. All because of that chance meeting with a stranger you will never see again.

    I was fortunate to survive the impact, any lesser guy would have died on impact so the medical teams have told me. But none the less I was badly broken. But it was not my time.

    I ended up in a squat in Coventry with a biker mate who said come over and stay here.

    25 years younger than me and as wild as it gets. If you knew how he grew up as a kid you would know why. A real tough nut and for good reasons, but he has a heart. As I say 25 years in age between us and you couldn't put a ciggie paper between us. Brothers, but he is not club and neither am I.

    While we lived there trying to dodge the building owner and pawning stuff to eat with no hot water or heating I went down the road to one of those government sponsored IT schools in a converted shop. They looked kindly on me and without me asking they just helped me out to have internet access to talk to my lawyer and my friends and kids. They made up some course for me to be on just so I could be there, they let me drink tea and coffee and its amazing when you hit rock bottom to find there are "angels" out there. People you never met or know who suddenly appear just at the right moment who go out of their way to help you. Surreal or so it seemed to me. This was one such time of several.

    That was when I found my partner on a biker site online.

    We talked by email for a few months and then we exchanged mobile phone numbers which wasn't easy because I had to keep pawning my phone for money to eat and then trying to buy it back in time.

    After many months she wanted to meet me and I had a beat up old GM Senator auto paid for using a very reluctant small interim payment from my legal team. They wouldn't pay while I was at home, they only paid an interim payment when my marriage had already failed due to lack of support and I became homeless. Logic?

    We did it by the book and we met in a very public cafe in a shopping centre and that was it.

    I can best describe it as feeling like I'd been hit hard in the face it was that kind of hit !

    Bang ! Decked me !

    She is 5 foot tall, loads of tattoos of her own design, piercings, ex punk rocker with attitude, but very clever and takes no rubbish from anyone. Uses the garage tools far better than most males I know. She is an ex power lifter with massive arms and shoulders. Strong but broken.

    She just has natural talent with anything. She was equally badly injured to me in similar ways and she came from a past very violent relationship. Soon after giving birth to her only child she had her bike smash.

    This was after months of severe beatings from her partner. He was a bad man.

    But she knew I could do her no harm because I was so badly broken and that was what she saw. I thought I was better than I really was.

    Sometime after I went down to the Stanmore in London for my third round of major ortho surgery, she asked me to go and live with her, I was head over heals with her and at that moment I thought nirvana had come to me. Sounds stupid? I felt like a kid.

    Crazy feelings ? Well yeah they say love is crazy happy funny.

    Although I am still in constant chronic pain and with £12,000 worth of CADCAM internal titanium prosthetics and still having injuries diagnosed, I found happiness for the first time in my life.

    I found a partner for life although we both know it shalln't be for long because nothing is forever.

    We are inseparable.

    Since we have been together she was able to go to Uni and take the degree she never had chance to before. She earned a BSc in Animal science and pharmacology... with honours.

    I was there with her mother and step father to see her take her honours on stage wearing the biggest pair of studded New Rocks you've ever seen and fully spiked blonde hair !!

    She is my babe. So proud of her.

    My daughter who was inspired by the appalling injustice of seeing what I went through, went on to achieve a Law degree with Honours the following year and she is now in a senior management position with a major oil company.

    Life goes on and people move on. Adapt and survive, its what we do as a species.

    I miss so much the buzz and new people I used to meet in new roles on new contracts, I miss the income and lifestyle !!

    But although my life is very modest and a hard struggle in other ways, I have one thing that is priceless and which I never have before.

    I have time.

    I sit back and study and watch the world.

    I want to tell you my life has never been what you might call "normal".

    Its always been this way. But I embrace it and accept its mine and it is exactly what I make of it.

  • hayabusa..... I am so moved by all your responses. I felt like crying.I just want to encourage you in keeping on striving. It does help having a supportive partner in the know as well

  • You said it all!! Amazing

  • What a heartfelt piece from hayabusa.

    Love & best wishes to you and your partner.

    Cat. xx

  • Thank you Cat.

    Love to you too.

  • Hyabusa, thank you for sharing this. I was falling off the back of a boneville before I was born thanks to my mum and dad, bikes in the blood.

    I felt humbled reading this, and embarrassed. I can't help but cry at the top of my lungs that once I was capable, I was once responsible, I was once functioning at a level many many levels higher than now. It's almost like my job is a badge of honor or the pinnacle of me and my life.

    I realise now that I should celebrate my life not in terms of status or identity linked to my work, but by who I am just being me.

    The partner, The Mother, the support worker, the play leader, the Cub Scout leader, the friend.

    I do not have a degree. I trained from 17 with the Air Force, I worked hard to get my qualifications, it meant a lot to me. I went civvy and once again had to gain my ticket, It was who I was. I was 32 when I had my accident and I had done little else, I was completely lost.

    I find myself doing it less as I am able to let go of that me.

    Am more comfortable with the new me, bu I do find that some people make assumptions.it shouldn't matter but it does especially when medical people do the same.

    I can be quite knowledgable and yet I can't 'do' time. I am rubbish at group conversation, either not contributing or doing it too much, getting lost and bored but voicing the thoughts.

    Irony can be a total waste with me at times too.

    Brain injury doesn't care if you are the most intelligent person on earth or the least. Rich poor etc.

    it really is luck of the draw, as is the level of recovery. I have met people with massive injury make astounding recovery and others with seemingly innocuous injury which has devastating consequence.

  • You know, it's good to talk and share. Sounds like youre some way on from your injury too?

    But youre right, you feel as if you have suddenly become a health problem and looked down on as a resource user and you think, hang on I used to be "this" before you treat me like an idiot. Status or Ego? I don' know, but almost overnight you find people treating you like a basket case. Hey! There is still an intelligent, caring person in here.

    The hardest part is often drawing a line to the past and accepting life has radically changed and what had gone had gone. But when you still live with the aftermath of it all I find I can't move on.

    Although I sound all rational and reasonable, underneath is a pit of anger and feelings of terrible injustice towards a system of care and support that doesn't work. There is no care system or help for victims of crime. These people take wages for jobs they don't actually do. Underneath all of this dealing with it, is a deeply traumatised soul.

    But I feel I have to be proactive in other ways and make myself move on. There is nothing else you can do.

    But I know in my heart that I am here. I survived and I can spend time with my adult kids and family. I am still here although I probably shouldn't be. What more could I hope for under the circumstances?

    By helping others, mostly my partner who I provide almost 24/care for, also helps me to keep myself together.

    Took at least 10 years to get to the stage where I had learned my limitations.

  • I get upset when some people say "your injuries are worse than mine".

    It's not a competition! Lol There are no prizes.

    Injuries and pain are totally personal. No one has the right to say or imply anyone's injuries are lesser or more than they are to that person.

    I had a major spat with a hospital consultant who said in his report that I was not managing my pain as well as I had. Well no, my pain is getting worse because these injuries deteriorate with time and age. As a rheumatologist it's fair to assume he would know this.

    But dealing with leg spinners in the medical "professions" is a frequent problem.

    I am still waiting for diagnosis of my multiple symptoms of spinal nerve damage since the accident.

    End of May.

    Back on track, please can everyone try not to think of their injuries as lesser or worse than anyone else's. It is about how the individual suffers and copes.

    It's not a score card.

  • ....... And I've ridden bikes since my smash. Yes I know it's crazy, but it's an addiction. Biker for life. It's not about two wheeled transport, it's a culture, a lifestyle, a mindset.

  • i went to school wen i felt like it ,ive had tragedys all through my life,ive got no grades or anything,yet afterc19 months after my annie rupture ,stroke ,epilepsy n cardiomyopathy my neuri dr is so pleased with my progress i do not ave to go bk to see her fr a year,so i dnt think education has any effect on recovery.

  • Bloody hell, if this is true, there's no hope for me :)

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