Study participants wanted: What happens in the brain during programming?

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Software developers spend a large part of their working time reading into existing programs and program code. Anyone who wants to know what goes on in his or her brain during this process can now take part in a joint study by Saarland University, the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Chemnitz University of Technology and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).

 Requirements for participation are experience in object-oriented programming (e.g. Java or C++, beginners and experts) and about two hours time for the experiment. The EEG study is conducted by Annabelle Bergum, PhD student at the Chair of Software Engineering of Professor Sven Apel at Saarland University in the facilities of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence at the Saarland Informatics Campus in Saarbrücken.

One of the aims of the study is to find out which brain regions are activated while programmers understand program code. The differences between experienced and inexperienced programmers are of particular interest. During the experiment, test participants wear a hood with electrodes of an electroencephalograph (EEG) and see various examples of program code on a screen, which they are asked to understand. During this process, brain waves and eye movements are measured.

The findings of the study may affect the design of programming languages and developer tools in the future, as well as the training of programmers.


Sign up:

Questions can be directed at: Annabelle Bergum (


Background to the study:
The current EEG study is part of a research collaboration between Saarland University, the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg and the TU Chemnitz. In this context, a highly regarded study entitled “Studying Programming in the Neuroage: Just a Crazy Idea?” was already published last year in the renowned “Communications of the ACM”. The researchers were able to prove that the language center of the brain is responsible for program comprehension, and not the brain areas associated with mathematical and logical thinking, as had been assumed.


Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
800 scientists and about 2100 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Five world-renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for “Multimodal Computing and Interaction” as well as Saarland University with three departments and 24 degree programs cover the entire spectrum of computer science.


Die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit am Saarland Informatics Campus wird unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert aus Mitteln des Europäischen Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) und Mitteln der Staatskanzlei Saarland.

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