Coding is Good for your Brain

Rob Adamson
Sep 21, 2018 · 4 min read

It is never too late for you to learn coding. Sounds impossible, right? The truth is that coding is good for you and programming is a skill you can learn at any age. I’ve had family and friends with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here is one possible way to fight back. And it’s fun!

Let’s look at the science. Studies were done in 1991, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2017 where they found that coders developed higher cognitive skills on average, and that coding or other intellectually stimulating activities dramatically reduced the chances of degenerative deceases such as Alzheimer’s.

Few cognitive activities are more brain demanding than programming. Coding improves your brain health and prevents neural deterioration. And it is surprisingly fun.

In 2014, scientists got the hair-brained idea to use fMRI scans on programmers while they analyzed code chunks.

These Universities conducted the crazy study. University of Passau, Germany Carnegie Mellon University, USA, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, Leibniz Inst. for Neurobiology Magdeburg, Germany, Metop Research Institute, Magdeburg, GermanyABSTRACT, University of Magdeburg, Germany

Here’s what they found based on cerebrum lobes:

  • Middle frontal gyrus for attention, language, and memory
  • Middle temporal gyrus for semantics
  • Inferior parietal lobule for memory
  • Inferior frontal gyrus for memory
  • Inferior frontal gyrus for language, and memory
  • Entire left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex for logic

So working with source code uses parts of the brain associated with language processing, memory, attention, and logic.

While most non-programmers believe that coding is just math and logic, it is much more than that. Programmers do think differently than other people, but coding involves attention, language, memory, math, logic, and creativity. That should be enough to keep your brain busy and healthy.

Still curious, I would recommend watching Ted Talks for programmers on Youtube.

Here is an important point. The programming language used has a lot to do with the way coders think. Go for what is called an object-oriented programming language such as Java, C++, Python, and Swift. Avoid Objective-C, the old Apple language.

A famous computer scientist, Edsger Dijkstra wrote:

“The tools we use have a profound (and devious) influence on our thinking habits, and, therefore, on our thinking abilities.”

If you have a Mac, the best language to learn is Swift. This language has a “playground” where you can experiment with code and see the results immediately.

A great learning environment on Windows is Java or Javascript.

Ok, back to the original theme that coding is good for your brain. Studies conducted at MIT have shown that programming is beneficial to cognitive development. So starting young is a great way to help your children learn how to learn.

For programmers, the ability to simplify complex issues is like a workout for the brain. The fascinating thing about coding is that once you have learned a language, it is possible to code with nothing but your brain. What? No, this is true! Coders often program while jogging, or hiking or even biking. I would not recommend this while storming down a mountain or in traffic, or on a date.

The point here is that as you code, and become familiar with a language; you will need to refer to your programming manuals or online reference guides less and less. This kind of offline coding is dramatically beneficial for your brain. But what good is programming in your head? Where’s the result?

That’s where memory comes in. You solve the severe problems offline. You let loose and get creative. Then when you are back at your computer, you write your program from memory. This sounds kind of crazy, but writers and other creative people understand this concept. And it’s fun!

Feeling the burn from your mountain bike? Gravity is a bitch! Well, start coding and when you get to the top, you will have forgotten about the burn. And you just might have created the next viral App.

Here’s a pretty good Medium article on learning to program.

I want to learn programming

Just keep in mind, that you are never too young or too old to learn coding. And it’s good for your brain?

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Rob Adamson

Written by

Programmer, Mtn Biker, Writer & Blogger. Wrote: BASE SciFi Novel, Mediaforge, Instant Replay, Gener/OL, Patents.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity not insanity

Rob Adamson

Written by

Programmer, Mtn Biker, Writer & Blogger. Wrote: BASE SciFi Novel, Mediaforge, Instant Replay, Gener/OL, Patents.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity not insanity

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