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Study Finds Pilots’ Brains Work Differently

Medical science has now confirmed what your family and friends have been telling you since the first time you strapped in and maybe before that. Your brain works differently than that of non-flying folks and contrary to what those in your immediate bubble might think, that’s actually a good thing, well mostly. ( More...

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Ric Wernicke 20
Pilots are people that can process operation of complex electro-mechanical systems while applying deft control of the systems based on physical stimuli and a through understanding of the expected outcome of changes to the system.

The whole process can be summed up in three words:

Fly the airplane.
bbabis 31
My wife has told me my brain is different for over 40 years. Don’t give her any more ammunition.
Mike Mohle 3
I hear ya!
Well, if you'll excuse the pun, this seems like a "no-brainer." While we mere mortals spend most of our lives in a 2-dimentional world, pilots live in 3-dimentions. That's got to have an impact. It would be interesting to see if this holds true for scuba divers or submarine captains.
WhiteKnight77 1
I know I was always able to find my way back to the boat or point of shore entry when I went diving, without the aid of a compass (though I did have one), on Okinawa. Diving near 3rd Recon was always a joy and had great visibility.
Larry Toler 5
Flying for a living isn't a job, it's a lifestyle. At least that's what I was told in F/A initial training. It really didn't feel like a job at all.
a person in any given profession TRAINS for the specifics of that job,and the brain adapts to the training given..whether you are a doctor,a nurse,an engineer,a geologist,an IT person,an engineer or yes, a pilot..i disagre wuth the premise given in the article that a pilots brain works differently...almost all of the airline pilots i have met however,do seem to have the "i am a god" mentality,and they let you know it!!
Jasper Buck 4
"...almost all of the airline pilots i have met however,do seem to have the "i am a god" mentality,and they let you know it!!"

Perhaps that's because so much more time nearer to God than thou. >;-)


Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
Aviation Safety Consultant
Wow, Captain Buck's accomplishments boggle the mind, don't they? How could anyone challenge his opinions when confronted with his dossier? He even left out a few things:

Vice Chairperson, Happy Valley PTA
Certified Xerox machine toner and drum changer
Licensed hedge trimmer and rose bush pruner
Dryer of dinner dishes
Lawn mower Frame and Powerplant Mechanic
Advisory Board member, Schnicklefritz Post 666, Boy Scouts of America
Three time bowler of a 300
Grand Admiral of the Fleet, Dinkins Bay Skiff-and-Dinghy Club
Jasper Buck -1
Nope, sorry, none of those things. For your list I hire an appropriately trained person to complete the task. Except for drying the dishes, our Bosch dishwasher does that.

Ummmm... I believe you missed the point, Cap'n. But never mind, this is likely not the venue for broad humor.
Lori Miller 3
And they’re probably talking to Him more also!
Yes pilots are gods...They live their dream, they are always happy.
WhiteKnight77 1
What does it mean if you see stuff such as the protruding spike on a wooden roller coaster 10 years before you become an NDT inspector? ;)
bbabis 9
The article simply states that pilot’s brains may be different. That doesn’t necessarily mean better as many posters seam to assume. It could go either way. When they state time of useful consciousness at altitude, I see no correlation because I know many pilots who’s consciousness is not useful at sea level.
They mean "differently" AS "better" the context of flying a plane.
Retired pilot here. 5 years Navy, 35 years airline. 22,843 hours.
Interesting read and comments.

My take is the pilot in command during flight is constantly making or changing decisions based upon the variable inputs.

Perhaps "The Pilot Brain" is a learned trait over time.

It seems to me my thinking off the aircraft is more linear.

I have heard the "I am God" comments and attitude. People handle command differently. During a flight and emergency the pilot in command decides a course of action that crew may not agree with. The crew is normally not directly responsible for any injuries or death.
Bill Butler 1
What Squadron? When?
David Friesen 3
Study is on 26-year-olds (SD 3), with mean flight time 1200 hrs (SD 2400). It would be interesting to see results for say a 40-year-old with 15 000 hrs.
Mike Mohle 3
Ah, so THAT'S it..... I will tell my wife.
capcmdr 3
Flying is the fun part.. Gets a little difficult when someone is shooting at you!
Gordon Young 3
Good ole multi-tasking or mental-juggling..
That explains it! Being an anesthetist and having been told that anesthetists make good pilots because we have to monitor so many things at the same time and coordinate them for good results, this explains why my friends (and sometimes family) seem to think my brain works differently than theirs. (I just tell them it's the nootropics I take. Yeah, right.)
Thomas Francl 3
My mind has always been in the gutter so I guess that's why I'm not a pilot.
Randall Bursk 2
My first time exposed to bananas was with a marine pilot instructor, ground school 1975. What followed was a 39 year airline career of International Flying both the line, training department. Total Bliss. Permanent Leave of Absence with COVID-19 finished my career. Thank all of you, hope for a better future.
We knew that from this board LOL
canuck44 2
The problem with papers like this is they are snapshots of individuals who are employed to an environment but because the study has no depth are these innate qualities or learned. more likely are they pilots who have not been washed out along the way and have not reached their Peter Principle level before obtaining their current status.
ronanmurph 2
I like this study, though I don't think it has any groundbreaking science about how the brain works. It seems to support that piloting(and learning to pilot)an aircraft probably makes us use our brains more in certain ways than those with comparable education. It improves connectivity measured outside the cockpit environment. What it does not tell us is wether this has any effect on other functioning outside the cockpit, but interesting to speculate on this.

This reminds me of a story that perhaps helps us understand more about why this is so interesting - hope you may enjoy this read:
Jose Mejia 2
All pilots have my utmost admiration!
Jerry Kenney 2
We should be more concerned about the lack of brains of the non-pilots who design cockpit automation that overrules pilots and flies airplanes in to the ground. Pilot in command has been replaced by “programmer in command”.
Elliot Cannon 1
In about 100 years from now there won't be any pilots. LOL
David Rice 1
That will be here in way less than 100 years.
Does "Flight Simulator" count?
Bill Butler 1
It's on the internet, it must be true.

Made In China. Caveat emptor.

If you would like a couple stories of pilots whose brains short-circuited.....
Jim Ries 1
Heard the same about cab drivers a long time ago.
canuck44 1
Think of how this theory could have been completely screwed up had they collected data from the last Tail Hook Convention in Vegas.
Bill Butler 1
Hah! We're all about the same once we get out of town....
Brent Bahler 1
And yet, that “wired differently” brain can easily fall prey to spatial disorientation when it should know better (i.e., trust your instruments).
Highflyer1950 1
You don’t a study, just ask any Flight Attendant?
Original report published in June 2020:
"These findings suggest that pilots might have better functional dynamics and cognitive flexibility".

..suggests .. might.
Junk science. Publish or perish.
But it is fun to speculate about ourselves ...
msetera -2
Liberals' brains work differently too.
Elliot Cannon 1
Lets try and keep the political BS off of this site.
Dan Grelinger 0
Good advice Mr. Cannon! However, aren't you the author of this post?

"Not too long ago, President Donald "I know more than the generals" Trump insisted that the old steam catault should be used because EALS would be too expensive. I wonder where he got all his military experetise? Maybe from his Podiatrist."

It would seem pretty obvious that what you REALLY mean is:

"You are free to express your opinion if it agrees with mine. If it disagrees with mine, you are stupid."

That, dear friend, is typical liberalism.
John Giroux 0
Too bad there's no typical "conservatism" these days, just a bunch of lemmings who bow and pray to an absolute idiot who spews lies.
WhiteKnight77 1
All politcians are liars.
Dan Grelinger 0
Two posts since you created your FlightAware account, and both of them contributed nothing constructive.

I look forward to your next pearls of wisdom.
Ric Wernicke -2
Yes, they think they won the Whitehouse.
Ric Wernicke -3
Now let's see if pilots get the joke.
John Giroux 0
Yeah, they WORK.. yours obviously doesn't..
I admire pilots so much...
Rex Bentley -4
Yeah like chimpanzee. Push button get banana


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