Your Brain Will Thank You Later for Peaking in High School

Those who aced senior year also seem to ace their actual senior years better, too
Your Brain Will Thank You Later for Peaking in High School

There’s nothing more insufferable than a person who peaked in high school and won’t shut up about it. We get it, you were valedictorian, but now you’re 40 and it’s getting weird. 

In these high achievers’ defense, though, a new study indicates that crushing it in high school appears to be relevant to at least one of your vital organs: your brain. Researchers tracked down nearly 2,300 (former) students from the longitudinal Project Talent Aging Study, which began in 1960, who are now in their 70s and had them participate in neurocognitive testing over the phone. The results revealed that students who attended higher quality schools displayed better cognitive functioning nearly 60 years later. 

“Our study establishes a link between high-quality education and better late-life cognition,” the study’s senior author Jennifer Manly concluded. She noted that this was particularly important for Black students, 242 of whom were included in the sample and experienced more negative effects compared to white students, potentially due to unequal access to good schools. 

As for why your brain seems to be so attached to your high school years, study co-author Dominika Šeblová, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University, suspected that “instruction provided by more experienced and knowledgeable teachers might be more intellectually stimulating and provide additional neural or cognitive benefits.” Likewise, attending “higher-quality schools may also influence life trajectory, leading to university education and greater earnings, which are in turn linked to better cognition in later life.” 

That said, your brain is probably the only thing that cares about how awesome you were in high school. So you can still keep it to yourself. 

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