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How programming affects your brain

Person sitting at the desk and doing something on the laptop

The benefits of being a software developer seem to be countless, with a lot of people wanting you badly topping the list. Being rewarded with great pay, as well as attractive perks and benefits, are nice. But, what often matters the most is the feeling of doing something meaningful, useful and enriching, that makes programmers grow in professional terms and belong to a great team.

Apart from being your life’s game changer, programming may also be a brain changer, affecting your mind greatly, and in a good way. Dealing with complex corner cases, breaking down problems, or performing source code reviews cannot be meaningless for the brain, and it certainly isn’t. Research conducted over the years has shed new light on why choosing programming as a career path can have a very positive long-term impact on a person’s brain.

Learning programming as well as tackling complex software development issues you may encounter later on are both very beneficial for the mind. When logic meets creativity, and language - math skills, and this is often the case of software developers, this mix can bring great results - regarding both the quality of problem-solving and the programmer’s brain itself.

# 1. Deconstructing programmers’ mindset

Numerous research showed that mental activities such as doing crossword puzzles, reading, playing cards, and board games decrease the risk of dementia in elderly people. But how does programming affect your brain, as a software developer?

Well, if you decide to proceed with programming, you should keep in mind that it may determine the way you approach various problems, not only those of a coding nature. For instance, the decisions you make regarding the use of the programming languages you choose to specialize in are vital because, according to Edsger Dijkstra, the tools that we utilize influence our thinking habits as well as our thinking abilities, profoundly.

Edsger argues that COBOL, for instance, is a programming language that “cripples the mind” when used, and its teaching should be “regarded as a criminal offence”. Moreover, in his opinion, “it is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration”.

But we’ve come a long way from the obsolete languages like COBOL, BASIC, or FORTRAN, and the modern ones don’t seem to harm software developers’ minds. However, the language or technology you stick to in the very beginning may affect your programming mindset. But what are the particular benefits of learning coding? What is coding good for as far as the brain’s performance is concerned?

# 2. Why programming is important for your brain

Although bystanders may think that writing code is boring and soul-sucking, in fact, it requires - but also helps strengthen - features such as creativity, and the ability to think outside of the box. But let’s check, in detail, what benefits of learning programming we may trace and see for ourselves.

# Increasing cognitive abilities

It’s definitely worth starting to learn how to code at a young age. It was as early as 1990 when it was revealed that students with computer programming experiences “scored about 16 percentile points higher on various cognitive ability tests than did students who did not have programming experiences”, a study by Yuen-Kuang Cliff Liao indicated.

But that’s just the beginning. As time goes by, and their experience and proficiency go up, software developers tend to discover not only coding skills improvement but even more brain-related benefits of doing their jobs. Researchers representing Nara Institute of Science and Technology have proved that “expert computer programmers show higher proficiency in certain behavioral and attention skills than their novice peers”, identifying particular brain regions (widely distributed in the frontal, parietal and temporal cortices) responsible for that effect.

Perfecting working memory as well as being better prepared to approach data quickly are in the cards here. And if you want to improve your coding skills or ask yourself a question: “Am I too old to learn programming?”, the answer is that the programmer’s mind can be obtained, exercised, or sharpened at any age. And, at any age, there are indisputable advantages of training it this way and improving coding skills.

# Activating the brain’s learning centers

Activating the brain’s learning centers, as well as building and strengthening neural pathways are other beneficial ways of how programming affects your brain and, eventually, help you become a better software developer.

In detail, coding is understood to activate “five brain regions, which are related to working memory, attention, and language processing”, which may enhance the process of learning, a study by a team of researchers with Dr. Janet Siegmund proved. And, what has been emphasized is that the processes that coding enhances “fit well to our understanding of program comprehension”.

What’s interesting is that although software developers tend to deal with various programming languages a lot, reading computer code does not activate brain regions that are related to language processing. Instead, such a skill triggers the general-purpose multiple demand network, in use when complex cognitive processes, like solving math problems, take place - MIT neuroscientists discovered.

# 3. What may also support programmers’ minds

But programming is just one of the means for keeping your mind razor-sharp and there are some more that may be regarded as complementary. In general, it has been proved that intellectually engaging activities in everyday life are, in fact, brain-stimulating. For instance, they buffer middle-aged and older adults against cognitive decline and affect cognitive functioning in a good way.

As the brain is a part of the body, the whole body should be kept in good shape. The number one condition is keeping it fit, by taking care of the heart and the whole cardiovascular system and by giving it the right amount of physical effort.
This portion of the exercise, however, needs to be provided frequently, usually several times a week. It may take a variety of forms - ranging from regular brain-boosting brisk walks, memory-boosting cardiovascular training, or coordination training and motor fitness and ending with cognitive decline-slowing aerobics-style exercise, dancing or even weightlifting.

What might also do wonders for your brain are activities such as socializing, stimulating the brain by trying new things, as well as providing the body with enough (7-9 hours a night) sleep and nourishing it, and thus the brain, with the right nutrients like those coming from fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and coffee or tea. These may let you become an even better software developer, too!

# 4. Empower your brain capabilities with CKSource

The possibility to grow, take part in interesting projects, and empower your brain capabilities is an integral part of accepting the job offer at CKSource. Up to five days for personal development, with 6.000 PLN, per year, are meant for that purpose apart from mind-blowing duties that let programmers grow fast daily. Software developers appreciate all these and tend to stay with the company for years. Over 40 programmers work here already, and this number is going up fast.

Some of the areas of expertise and software development specializations in use when working for CKSource include JavaScript, React, Node.js, CSS3, and HTML5 - with a focus on quality, tests, providing simple solutions, and clean code. CKSource’s programmers utilize their talents and creativity to work on things like developing cutting-edge products (including CKEditor 5) and websites and enhancing them with new features added regularly.

Positions that we are recruiting for embrace Tech Leads, Frontend Developers, QA Engineers, React Developers, and JavaScript Developers representing various levels of expertise, to name but a few. There are many jobs available so you can train various brain regions, master unique abilities, and meet other benefits of coding while working for us.

If you’re interested in growing with CKSource, simply take part in our candidate-friendly recruitment process and apply for one of the job offers available.

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