Program comprehension is an important cognitive process that inherently eludes direct measurement. Thus, researchers are struggling with providing suitable programming languages, tools, or coding conventions to support developers in their everyday work. In this presentation, we describe a study in which we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure program comprehension. We discuss the requirements for fMRI studies and for program-comprehension measurement. We show that program comprehension is closely related to language comprehension and that fMRI studies to measure program comprehension have great potential to revolutionize program-comprehension research, programming-language and tool design, as well as education of beginning programmers.
Janet Siegmund works at the University of Passau as Postdoc. In her research, she focuses on program comprehension, especially how it can be reliably measured, for example, with functional magnetic resonance imaging. This cross-cutting research area is based on the psychological and computer-science domain, in which she holds master's degrees. In her Ph.D. thesis "Framework for Measuring Program Comprehension", she developed guidelines that help researchers to reliably measure program comprehension in human-based experiments. In her lecture "Empirical Methods for Computer Scientists" she teaches computer-science students how to conduct empirical research in the context of software engineering. In 2013, she managed the chair for software engineering at the University of Magdeburg and gave held software engineering 101.