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To the Brain, Reading Computer Code Is Not the Same as Reading Language

By MIT News

December 22, 2020

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tufts University neuroscientists have found that reading computer code activates different brain region than reading language does.

The team scanned participants with functional magnetic resonance imaging as they read code snippets in Python and ScratchJr, and predicted the action each snippet would generate.

The coding task mainly activated the brain's multiple demand network, with little to no response from the language regions of the brain.

Moreover, code-reading also appeared to rely more on different parts of the brain's multiple demand network than math or logic problems do, suggesting  it does not precisely reproduce the cognitive rigors of math, either.

The implication of the research is that there is no definitive answer as to whether coding should be taught as a math-based skill or a language-based skill.

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