Published: 2019-02-27 09:52 | Updated: 2019-03-22 14:22

New thesis: Causal effects of education on cognition : how do we generate evidence?

Domenika Seblova

Hi Dominika Seblova, PhD-student at the Division of Aging Research Center. On 22 March you will defend your thesis ”Causal effects of education on cognition : how do we generate evidence?”, what's the main focus of the thesis?

My thesis examined if longer education improves cognitive abilities and can reduce occurrence of old-age dementia. However, studying education is complicated because people do not choose their schooling randomly, which makes isolating effect of education from other factors difficult. Yet, this was what we set out to do in this thesis with the help of schooling reforms in Sweden, which introduced some random variation.

Which are the most important results?

One of our studies suggested there may be an improvement in public health since the number of new patients with dementia diagnosis in Swedish hospitals was decreasing in last half a decade. Further, our findings indicated that educational reforms can improve cognitive abilities and also reduce socioeconomic inequalities. However, out findings also bring into question if prolonged education can reduce dementia occurrence and education’s association with decline in memory in healthy individuals.

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health?

Monitoring disease occurrence over time, as we did with dementia, can improve health through improved resource planning. Further, understanding how different school systems may promote health and health equity can have substantial effects since all of us spent many years of our lives in school.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?

In my near future, I will write a chapter on dementia in the Public Health Report 2019 (Folkhälsorapporten) issued by Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Stockholm County Council. After that and bit of a rest, I will move to New York City for a postdoctoral position at Columbia University at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain. There I will devote myself to further research of socio-economic and ethnic inequalities in cognitive aging.