Functional magnetic resonance imaging of mental strategy in a simulated aviation performance task

M. Peres, P. F. Van De Moortele, C. Pierard, S. Lehericy, P. Satabin, D. Le Bihan, C. Y. Guezennec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: The objective of this study was to analyze the sensory and cognitive functions associated with activated brain regions characterizing mental strategy relative to degree of expertise in aviation-related tasks. Methods: We used echo-planar functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique to examine brain activity in expert pilots (n = 6) compared with novice pilots (n = 6) during performance of a simulated aviation track-following task at 200 knots vs. 100 knots. Results: Expert pilots showed reduced activity in visual and motor regions that contrasted with predominant activation within anterior structures including the frontal and prefrontal cortices; structures involved in visual working memory, planning, selective attention and decision making functions. Novice pilots showed widespread activation of anterior and posterior brain structures, with a rise in activity in the visual, parietal and motor cortices as task difficulty increased. Conclusions: A high level of performance in the track-following task related to a high degree of expertise in the aviation field. This corresponded to experts performing perceptual and mnemonic processing through a network of specialized functions from visual through multiple prefrontal areas. By contrast, the novice pilots predominantly show activity associated with non-specific perceptual processing and without subsequent representation of selective information in working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1218-1231
Number of pages14
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 12 2000


  • Anticipating
  • Attention
  • Aviation expertise
  • Flight path
  • Functional brain imaging
  • Performance
  • Planning
  • Working memory
  • fMRI


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