Decoding the Representation of Code in the Brain: An fMRI Study of Code Review and Expertise

@article{Floyd2017DecodingTR,
  title={Decoding the Representation of Code in the Brain: An fMRI Study of Code Review and Expertise},
  author={Benjamin Floyd and Tyler Santander and Westley Weimer},
  journal={2017 IEEE/ACM 39th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE)},
  year={2017},
  pages={175-186}
}
Subjective judgments in software engineering tasks are of critical importance but can be difficult to study with conventional means. Medical imaging techniques hold the promise of relating cognition to physical activities and brain structures. In a controlled experiment involving 29 participants, we examine code comprehension, code review and prose review using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We find that the neural representations of programming languages vs. natural languages are… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Neurological Divide: An fMRI Study of Prose and Code Writing
TLDR
The first human study in which participants wrote code and prose while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scan, making use of a full-sized fMRI-safe QWERTY keyboard is presented.
Toward an Objective Measure of Developers’ Cognitive Activities
TLDR
Two controlled experiments involving 112 students to explore multiple computing activities (code comprehension, code review, and data structure manipulations) using three different objective measures including neuroimaging (functional near-infrared spectroscopy and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and eye tracking) are presented.
Comprehension of computer code relies primarily on domain-general executive brain regions
TLDR
Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to investigate two candidate brain systems to investigate the multiple demand (MD) system and the language system, typically recruited during linguistic processing, and found that the MD system supports the use of novel cognitive tools even when the input is structurally similar to natural language.
Comprehension of computer code relies primarily on domain-general executive brain regions
Computer programming is a novel cognitive tool that has transformed modern society. What cognitive and neural mechanisms support this skill? Here, we used fMRI to investigate two candidate brain
Computer code comprehension shares neural resources with formal logical inference in the fronto-parietal network
TLDR
Code comprehension overlapped extensively with neural basis of formal logic and to a lesser degree math, and laterality of language and code covaried across individuals.
A Look into Programmers’ Heads
TLDR
Whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is feasible for soundly measuring program comprehension is explored and a clear, distinct activation of five brain regions, which are related to working memory, attention, and language processing, are shown.
Comprehension of computer code relies primarily on domain-general executive resources
TLDR
It is concluded that code comprehension relies primarily on domain-general executive resources, demonstrating that the multiple demand (MD) system supports the use of novel cognitive tools even when the input is structurally similar to natural language.
Distilling Neural Representations of Data Structure Manipulation using fMRI and fNIRS
TLDR
In a human study involving 76 participants, this work examines list, array, tree, and mental rotation tasks using both functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), finding a nuanced relationship between data structure and spatial operations.
A Neuro-Cognitive Perspective of Program Comprehension
  • Norman Peitek
  • Computer Science, Biology
    2018 IEEE/ACM 40th International Conference on Software Engineering: Companion (ICSE-Companion)
  • 2018
TLDR
This thesis work aims at establishing fMRI as a new tool for program-comprehension and software-engineering studies, and seeks to refine the existing framework for conducting fMRI studies by extending it with eye tracking and improved control conditions.
Computer code comprehension shares neural resources with formal logical inference in the fronto-parietal network
TLDR
In this study, expert programmers performed code comprehension and memory control tasks while undergoing fMRI, and the same participants also performed formal logic, symbolic math, executive control, and language localizer tasks.
...
1
2
3
4
5
...

References

SHOWING 1-10 OF 96 REFERENCES
Understanding understanding source code with functional magnetic resonance imaging
TLDR
This paper explores whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is well established in cognitive neuroscience, is feasible to soundly measure program comprehension and finds a clear, distinct activation pattern of five brain regions that fit well to the understanding of program comprehension.
Brain activity measurement during program comprehension with NIRS
  • Yoshiharu Ikutani, H. Uwano
  • Psychology
    15th IEEE/ACIS International Conference on Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Networking and Parallel/Distributed Computing (SNPD)
  • 2014
TLDR
It is concluded that the frontal pole reflects workload to short-term memory caused by variables without affected from calculation.
Decoding Semi-Constrained Brain Activity from fMRI Using Support Vector Machines and Gaussian Processes
TLDR
This study tests the classification of brain activity, acquired on 16 volunteers using fMRI, during mental imagery, a condition in which the number and duration of mental events were not externally imposed but self-generated, and concludes that the GP technique tends to be more robust than SVM to model unbalanced data sets.
Experts bodies, experts minds: How physical and mental training shape the brain.
TLDR
The present review focuses on three expertise domains placed across a motor to mental gradient of skill learning: sequential motor skill, mental simulation of the movement (motor imagery), and meditation as a paradigmatic example of "pure" mental training.
A functional MRI study of high-level cognition
Quantifying programmers' mental workload during program comprehension based on cerebral blood flow measurement: a controlled experiment
TLDR
Using a wearable Near Infra-red Spectroscopy (NIRS) device to measure cerebral blood flow, a controlled experiment suggests the possibility of using NIRS to measure the mental workload of a person during software development activities.
Attentional Control in the Aging Brain: Insights from an fMRI Study of the Stroop Task
Several recent studies of aging and cognition have attributed decreases in the efficiency of working memory processes to possible declines in attentional control, the mechanism(s) by which the brain
Cluster failure: Why fMRI inferences for spatial extent have inflated false-positive rates
TLDR
It is found that the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%.
...
1
2
3
4
5
...