How does programming affect your brain?

Programmers think differently than others. Of course, this does not mean that programming are necessarily smarter or more rational than others. 

But scientists have just begun to study the brain of programmers and have found some interesting results.

Just as art can shape your mind in many ways, computer programming can affect your brain and your thinking. This is probably the effect you would not expect.

1- Coding shapes your mental models

Does it matter which programming language you choose first to learn? Yes!

Maybe a little unfair. However, many programmers start out in schools and have little choice. Some start with the C language. Older people may start with languages ​​such as Fortran, Cubol or BASIC. Those who choose to learn a programming language these days probably start with Java or Python.

There is no doubt that the type of programming languages ​​you choose to learn will change your thinking. Edsger Dijkstra, one of the most influential computer scientists in history, said:

The tools we use have a huge impact on our habits and therefore our intellectual abilities.

“The use of COBOL paralyzes the mind, so training it should be considered a criminal act,” he said. Elsewhere, he said, “Teaching good programming to students who have experience working with Basics is a difficult task. Because potential programmers are mentally challenged.”

In a sense, all programming languages ​​are equally capable. So they are all compatible with the Turing machine. But in another sense, being proficient in one language can lead to the destruction of another. Java and Python programmers are two different groups whose coding methods are completely different.

In other words, the paradigms and terms of the first programming language you learn will influence and even change your thinking about data structures, algorithms, and more.

In general it can be said that when you learn programming in a particular way you deal with all the problems that you face.

2. Programming helps improve brain health

Some believe that the brain is also a muscle and if you want to stay healthy you need to exercise. But is that really true? And if true, can programming be considered a mental exercise that affects brain health?

A comprehensive study conducted in 1991 examined the effect of computer programming on cognitive outcomes, and finally found that students with computer programming experience were 16% higher in cognitive ability tests than those with programming knowledge. They didn’t have computers.

A larger study conducted in 1999 found that activities that engage in thinking help individuals resist cognitive decline. Of course, cognitive decline may lead to less participation in thought-related activities, according to the study.

In 2009 another study was conducted that was much larger than the previous two. The study also found similar results and showed that people with mental activity were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of forgetfulness. Activities that involve the mind include reading, writing, puzzles, card games, and even playing music.


in 2013, the results of a study showed that only certain types of conflict and mental activity could lead to a more active and lively brain .

Programming helps improve brain health

Of course, more research needs to be done, but it is hard to imagine a mental activity that is more dynamic and more focused on learning than programming .

None of these studies show that the activities that engage the mind can make people smarter or more empowered. The only obvious result is that activities that are cognitively high-powered can at least increase your current state of mind and substantially prevent dementia.

Note that it’s never too late to start learning coding and programming . Programming is great for your mental health.

3. Coding is not just math and logic

In 2014, a research base on fMRI scans was conduct to investigate the brain activity involved in programming and trying to understand code snippets. The results of the study showed that five distinct areas of the brain are involved in understanding and understanding the codes:







So we see that when the mind is working on source code it uses parts of the brain that are usually associate with language processing, memory and attention.

The sections not seen in these sections are areas of mathematics and computation. That is, even when the brain is trying to understand code snippets such as loops, conditional, computational, and other algorithms, there is no information about the mathematical and logic parts.

Coding is not just math and logic

Of course, this research is not very complete, which is what the researchers point out:

– The snippets include in this study were less than 20 lines of code and time-limit, meaning they were not strong enough to challenge.

– Evidence does not show that programming languages ​​are like foreign languages, only that they include the same area of ​​the brain .

– Participants should not write their own code, which is likely to involve other parts of the brain .

We know that programmers are constantly checking source code, whether they wrote the code themselves or whether it belongs to another developer . On the other hand, we know that programmers are editing and editing code more than they are coding from scratch.

So this research is not very fruitful. Programming is not just an activity related to the left brain.

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