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New publication on the use of neuroscientific methods in software engineering research

Review of research on the use of neuroscientific methods in software engineering published in the Journal of Systems and Software

The term “NeuroSE” refers to a research domain, which focuses on the use of neuroscientific methods in software engineering. The current status of research in this domain is reviewed in an article that was recently published in the Journal of Systems and Software. Authors of this article are Barbara Weber of the University of St. Gallen, Thomas Fischer (IDB, JKU) and René Riedl (JKU and University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria).

The article reviews the current status of NeuroSE research based on 89 publications of which 47 are finished empirical studies. The neuroscientific data collection methods used in these studies range from techniques to measure brain activity (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, electroencephalography or EEG and functional near-infrared spectroscopy or fNIRS) over techniques to measure heart activity (e.g., electrocardiogram or ECG) to techniques to measure skin conductivity (e.g., electrodermal activity or EDA) or unconscious movements of the eye (eyetracking).

The systematic analysis of the literature allowed to draw a number of conclusions regarding the contribution that these methods can make to software engineering, including:

  • enhancing our understanding of human factors in software engineering (e.g., the tasks that are particularly difficult for a specific software developer)
  •  can inform the development of techniques to improve the development of software (e.g., to support code comprehension)
  • understanding the use of software systems and provide insights into how software is perceived by their users (e.g., to identify functionalities that are particularly difficult to understand for users)
  • Neurophysiological measurements can be used to develop so-called neuro-adaptive systems, software systems that are able to adapt to the mental state of their users (e.g., to simplify the user interface during periods of high cognitive load)

The article is open access and therefore available for free. Please follow this LINK to the article.