Getting Senior Citizens to Learn Computer Coding: An investigation Grounded in Motivational Theories and Neuroscience

Project Number

Project Duration
December 2015 - November 2016


As lifespan increases, there is a need to ensure that senior citizens’ quality of life is not compromised due to decreased physical and mental functions. We speculate potential psychological benefits for teaching elderly adults computer programing skills, particularly if the experience is fun, engaging and game-like; much akin to playing Mahjong and board games. We hypothesize that the learning of coding, particularly in a fun and highly motivated state, could bring about evident changes in the elderly's brain given the inherent opportunities for problem solving and mental stimulations. This prompted us to propose a project to study elderly’ learning of computer programming (or coding) from the motivational and neuroscientific perspectives. Specifically, in the final proposal, we plan to propose three phases of study as follows: (1) to study neuroplasticity (i.e. structural and functional changes) between elderly adults who had been coding and those naive to coding through fMRI, (2) to examine how different elements of gamified e-learning features motivate and elicit desired brain changes during learning by employing EEG, and (3) to validate the effects of elderly learners learning through the gamified e-learning package developed through phase 2 by examining neuroplasticity resulted. Upon the start of planning stage, we will review literature in gerontology, computer technology, gamification, motivational psychology and neuroscience, followed by the development of our research methods. We plan to engage a full-time research assistant to review essential literature and to prepare the proposal. Regular meetings between project members will also be held to formulate the research proposal. During which, we will visit Harvard Medical School to meet Professor Margaret Livingstone, a renowned neurobiologist and possibly other scholars working in the area of brain sciences to develop and fine tune our research plan. A full grant proposal will be submitted by the end of the grant period.

Funding Source

Related Projects