Artificial intelligence is evolving faster than you can say AI. We use computers for everything from calling home to buying groceries -- but people have to create programs to run them. Whether you’re just learning code or you’re a veteran programmer, nootropics for programming help the cognitive skills you need to write better code faster. This guide covers the best coding nootropics to look for in brain supplements.
What is Coding?
Coding is the popular term for computer programming. It’s the process computer programmers use to create software, smartphone apps, and websites – including blogs like this one.
Coding is everywhere. Whether you’re posting an Instagram, using your debit card, or watching a YouTube video, lines of code are behind it. Pretty much anything with a plug or a battery uses code – lots of it.
For anyone who was born post-2000, learning to code will probably be as normal as learning long division or how to read.<1> But for beginners or those who didn’t grow up with the internet, computer programming can seem as out of reach as learning Mandarin Chinese.
The truth is, almost anyone with strong, flexible cognitive skills and the desire to learn can code. And nootropics for programming, especially when combined into effective stack supplements, can help.
The cognitive benefits of computer programming go far beyond learning computer language or knowing how to make a webpage. Learning and practicing code teaches you valuable skills you can use in real life every day.
Code is a precise set of instructions that a computer can follow. Like a recipe for grandma’s famous banana bread, the instructions need to be concise in order to get the desired results.
There are myriad coding languages in 2018, including Perl, C++, and Python. And much like human language, coding languages are all different but share many of the same basic features. So the ideas behind any particular language apply to all coding languages.
Brain Benefits of Coding
By now you’ve probably heard that everyone should learn how to code. But why?
The truth is, you can get many benefits from learning coding – from designing your own website to gaining a lucrative, stable career. But the best benefits are how coding can boost your brain power.
Did you know? Programming can actually make you smarter.
How? By teaching computational thinking.<2> More than merely writing code, computational analysis is a problem-solving approach that uses conceptual thinking at multiple abstract levels.
Computational thinking is far more human – and far more advanced – than computer reasoning. Humans possess a unique capacity for creativity that computers simply do not have, and that creative approach allows us to come up with solutions AI never could.
We can use this approach to coding in order to create more intelligent computers that can help us live smarter lives.
A 1991 meta-analysis found that “Students having computer programming experiences scored about 16 percentile points higher on various cognitive ability tests than students who did not have programming experiences.”<3>
Coding has only gotten more complicated as technology speeds forward, and more recent research supports the idea that those complicated mental tasks help keep cognition sharp as we age.<4>
“I think everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think. I view computer science as a liberal art, something everyone should learn to do." – Steve Jobs
How the Brain Works for Programming
A study using fMRI brain scans shows the main brain areas involved in comprehending code. Surprisingly, these brain regions don’t involve math and logic centers: they are responsible mostly for language processing, attention, and memory.
Middle Frontal Gyrus
The middle frontal gyrus is actually more of a brain region than a single gyrus. It spans both left and right hemispheres and covers just over 30 percent of the frontal lobe.
This area deals with attention, language, and working memory.<5> Computer programmers need hyper-vigilant attention skills to write code the computer can understand.
Computers can only follow the instructions programmers give them, they cannot complete a partial code or resolve errors on their own.
That’s why coders have to pay close attention to detail in order to get the instructions right the first time and avoid having to waste time skimming through hundreds or thousands of lines of code trying to find a glitch.
Middle Temporal Gyrus
The middle temporal gyrus is sandwiched between the superior and inferior temporal sulcus in both left and right temporal lobes.
This gyrus controls semantic memory retrieval. Semantic memory is a type of long-term memory related to acknowledged facts and common knowledge – like the sky is blue or Madison is the capital of Wisconsin.
For coding in particular, semantic memory retrieval accesses coding language memory so programmers can translate instructions into lines of code and vice versa. Some cognitive enhancers may support semantic memory.
Inferior Parietal Lobule
The inferior parietal lobule incorporates the angular gyrus and the supramarginal gyrus in the parietal lobes of the left and right brain hemispheres. Also called Geschwind’s territory, this lobule is right in the middle of the primary language pathway, linking Broca’s area to Wernicke’s area.
The inferior parietal lobule itself is involved with both language and mathematical operations. Strong activity in this brain region is particularly good for coding programs heavy in math, science, and engineering.
There are a wide variety of coding languages to choose from, and some are more mathematical languages than others. So when you’re coding for tech-intensive topics like science and engineering, this brain region really fires up.
Inferior Frontal Gyrus
The inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) is part of the frontal gyrus in the frontal lobe. The posterior portion of the IFG is part of Broca’s area, a brain region important for speech and language.<6>
The left parietal IFG serves as a language processor and helps with language comprehension, while the right parietal IFG is involved with attention.<7> Nootropics for programming can help with both.
Since coding uses language, the IFG helps programmers learn how to use and understand coding languages.
Program or Be Programmed
Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says, “If you don’t know what the software you’re using is for, then you’re not using it - you’re being used by it.”
In a world where technology runs practically everything, it’s surprising how few people have decided to really interact with that technology. Some people may fear losing autonomy to AI, but the truth is, the programmers will be creating the reality in which the rest of us live.
Modern tech gives us the ability to reshape everything from education to our economy. Rushkoff warns us if we’re not using that power to redesign our world, future AI just might do it for us.
The Coding Toolkit
Computer programming takes a specific mental skill set, and those skills need to be quick and sharp. Honing the following skills will help you stay at the top of your game.
Code glitches do not fix themselves, and it takes some serious problem-solving abilities to find and fix the issue without wasting a massive amount of time scrolling through countless lines of code.
But the act of coding itself can improve your problem-solving skills.
Writing and interpreting code means breaking a big task down into small chunks. Since everything is more manageable in small bites, that approach can help you manage other, non-coding problems better too.
Programming requires a lot of working memory: language syntax, prewritten functions and their parameters, what variables and functions you have defined in your program so far, how to recognize, avoid or deal with problems you have had before – and that’s just the basics.
You could keep notes detailing everything you’ve done with the project and what you have left to do, but the more you can remember, the more successful you will be at coding.
Even if you can find hacks to deal with a poor memory or weak problem-solving skills, attention to detail and being able to focus for hours at a time are extremely important for coding success.
Just one wrong character can throw off the whole program, causing errors and creating potential bugs that can be tremendously time-consuming and difficult to find and fix.
And different languages require different variables and formats, so although you may work with several different coding languages, you have to remain consistent within the parameters of each one. That requires constant attention to the smallest details.
Perhaps the most important skill you need for coding is thorough comprehension of the language. Learning to code is like learning a foreign language or how to play music. You will need all of the tools above and more just to learn the language.
Once you have learned the language sufficiently to write a line or two of code, you'll have to start using it.
That is the only way to expand your knowledge of the language and improve your programming skills.
Maybe you want to become an expert in just one programming language, but chances are you will want to learn multiple coding languages, especially if you aim to be a back end or full-stack developer.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Programming
NALT is particularly good at helping to preserve working memory during high-pressure, multitasking events. And it is a more absorbable form of l-Tyrosine, making it even more effective.
- NALT works by increasing levels of catecholamines (CA) like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. And it helps multitaskers recover mental energy by increasing brain CA turnover and release.<8>
Citicoline as Cognizin® helps to optimize the electrical impulses that create brain energy, improving mental performance. More brain energy plus better mental performance leads to enhanced attention, focus, and memory.
- Human studies show that citicoline complements coding-induced activity in the right parietal inferior frontal gyrus to improve attention through cognitive inhibition.<9>
L-theanine is the special ingredient found in green tea that gives the tea its soothing properties. L-theanine's primary bioactivity supports an alpha brain wave state conducive to relaxed awareness, helping you to be creative and calm while remaining alert and attentive.
And l-theanine reduces caffeine-induced jitters for those long, coffee-fueled coding sessions, helping you to keep going without the side effects.
Bacopa can improve short-term memory, and that's good for coding performance. The more technical and practical properties you can remember, the better and faster you will be able to write good, glitch-free code.
And as an adaptogen it helps to moderate stress response so you can keep going under pressure without feeling frazzled.
- Animal studies suggest that neurprotective properties of the bacosides in B. monnieri may improve learning and memory.<10>
Rhodiola works to combat stress during intense coding marathons by boosting mood, helping you stay positive-minded and present in the moment. Plus, it helps fight fatigue and promotes an active, stimulated brain state - usually within 30 minutes.
Rhodiola works to combat stress with a two-pronged approach.
- Rhodiola soothes the sympatho-adrenal-system (SAS) that manages stress response to volatile, short-term stressors.
- As an adaptogen, rhodiola is thought to affect the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis), which handles long-term stress.<11>
As complementary adaptogen herbs, bacopa and rhodiola work together to reduce stress-related burnout, protecting focus and memory.<12>
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for programming help to power-up key cognitive functions involved in coding.
- Attention, memory, problem-solving, and language are some of the most basic cognitive functions needed for coding, but programming also requires many other mental processes.
Mind Lab Pro® can enhance the cognitive functions necessary for prime programming success, safely and naturally -- all while encouraging optimal whole-brain health.
- Raichle ME, Gusnard DA. Appraising the brain's energy budget. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2002 Aug 6; 99(16): 10237-10239.
- Hershner SD, Chervin RD. Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students. Nat Sci Sleep. 2014; 6: 73-84.
- Wurtman RJ et al. Synapse formation is enhanced by oral administration of uridine and DHA, the circulating precursors of brain phosphatides. J Nutr Health Aging. 2009 Mar; 13(3): 189-97.
- Fioravanti M, Buckley AE. Citicoline (Cognizin) in the treatment of cognitive impairment. Clin Interv Aging. 2006 Sep; 1(3): 247-51.
- Silveri MM et al. Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008 Nov; 21(10): 1066-75.
- Mahoney CR et al. Tyrosine supplementation mitigates working memory decrements during cold exposure. Physiol Behav. 2007 Nov 23; 92(4): 575-82. Epub 2007 May 22
- Thomas JR et al. Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Nov; 64(3): 495-500.
- Neri DF et al. The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995 Apr; 66(4): 313-9.
- Hung SK et al. The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine. 2011 Feb 15; 18(4): 235-44.
- Olsson EM et al. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 2009 Feb; 75(2): 105-12.
- van Diermen D et al. Monoamine oxidase inhibition by Rhodiola rosea L. roots. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Mar 18; 122(2): 397-401.