Investigating Expertise in Pilots versus Non-Pilots: How Action is Observed and Processed is Dependent on Experience


This study investigates the effect of expertise on watching replays of a complex perceptual motor task involving landing a glider for pilots and non-pilots. Fifteen pilots and age and sex matched non-pilots participated in the experiment. The task was to land the glider on a red X either to the left or right as directed. There was also a baseline do nothing condition as well as two replay conditions in which the subject passively watched: one replay was of the previous trials flight, the other was of an expert pilots flight. It was predicted that only pilots would process replays of their own previous trial flight and replays of an expert pilots flight differently. This is because only pilots have neural processes shaped by experience of operating the flight controls to land the glider. When pilots see their own previous flight they will process the information as error-feedback. Whereas, when pilots see an experts flight they will process the information in relation to imitation training. Consistent with predictions only pilots showed differential activity between replay conditions. For the contrast of Previous versus Expert differential activity was found in the cerebellum known to be involved with error-feedback learning, whereas, in the contrast of Expert versus Previous brain regions involved with imitation (premotor cortex) were activated.


Movie of Experimental Conditions

Please install the Flash Plugin




Callan, D., Terzibas, C., Cassel, D., Callan, A., Kawato, M., Sato, M. (2013). Differential activation of Brain Regions Involved with Error Feedback and Imitation based Motor Simulation when Observing Self and an Expert’s Actions in Pilots and Non-Pilots on a Complex Glider Landing Task. NeuroImage 72, 55-68.