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Coding and its positive impacts on brain functioning

Scientific research concludes that coding has positive impacts on the brain, including increased organizational and problem-solving skills.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/wilhuang0915/" target="_self">William Huang</a>

William Huang

December 29, 2022
Coding is the process or activity of writing computer programs, and of course, humans do this by using their brains. It should be no surprise that coding has an impact on the brain — it improves the ability to solve problems, pay attention, and perform logical reasoning. Researchers of top research institutions have found plenty of evidence of the positive impacts coding has on human brains.

While coding, people are actively using their brains in solving challenging cognitive tasks. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers have tested whether brain activity patterns while reading computer code would overlap with language-related brain activity. The researchers found that brains are more activated in the multiple-demand network part of the brain when coding. This network is typically used to perform mental tasks that require us to hold a lot of information in our memory at once and is responsible for performing a wide range of cognitive tasks.

To see whether brain activity patterns while reading computer code would overlap with language-related brain activity, the researchers conducted their study on young adults proficient in the programming languages Python and Scratch Jr. The researchers made the subjects lay in an fMRI scanner while showing them snippets of code and asking them to predict what the action of the code will be. This research shows that coding allows the brain to practice difficult cognitive problem-solving tasks that help improve the overall ability to solve problems.

The ability of the brain to pay attention is also improved by coding. In a test conducted by the Nara Institute of Science and Technology as reported by ScienceDaily, better coders have better organization and attention control. Two brain regions that are functionally related to stimulus-driven attention control were much stronger in higher-skilled programmers. In the test, programmers were shown 72 different code snippets while under the observation of functional MRI (fMRI) that scanned their brains for activity. They are asked to place each snippet into one of four functional categories. There were three levels of programmers tested: novices, experienced, and expert programmers. The study showed that the more skilled the programmer was, the better they characterized the snippets, thus showing that they have more skilled attention in accomplishing the task. This test proves that higher-level programmers have more attention control as their brains are stimulated to organize their problem and execute it efficiently.

Coding also appears to improve logical reasoning. The impact of coding on logical reasoning was shown by John Hopkins University in a test administered by JHU researchers. The programmers in the test were given coding questions to work on while lying in an fMRI scanner where the researchers analyzed their brains. The logical portions of the participants’ brains were lit, so the researchers showed that coding strongly favors the left hemisphere, the area that correlates with language and logic.

The three tests conducted by three different institutions all have the same general results — higher-skilled programmers all performed better on cognitive functions. All of them also use fMRI scanners as part of the experiments to come to this general result.

It’s safe to say that coding has a lot of benefits and positive impacts on the brain. Better coders have better problem-solving because they have better diverse cognitive minds to accomplish multiple tasks. Coding helps develop and maintain attention because your brain is primed to organize and execute complex problems. On top of that, coding helps improve logical reasoning. In an increasingly technological and internet-based society, coding is a key life skill to learn, but the unexpected benefit is that it’s not just making our lives better, it’s making our brains better too.

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