To the brain, reading computer code is not the same as reading language @MIT #Neuroscience

In some ways, learning to program a computer is similar to learning a new language. It requires learning new symbols and terms, which must be organized correctly to instruct the computer what to do.

In spite of those similarities, MIT neuroscientists have found that reading computer code does not activate the regions of the brain that are involved in language processing. Instead, it activates a distributed network called the multiple demand network, which is also recruited for complex cognitive tasks such as solving math problems or crossword puzzles.

“Understanding computer code seems to be its own thing. It’s not the same as language, and it’s not the same as math and logic,” says Anna Ivanova, an MIT graduate student and the lead author of the study.

Evelina Fedorenko, the Frederick A. and Carole J. Middleton Career Development Associate Professor of Neuroscience and a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, is the senior author of the paper, which appears in eLife.

The researchers say that while they didn’t identify any regions that appear to be exclusively devoted to programming, such specialized brain activity might develop in people who have much more coding experience.

Read more in the MIT News here.


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