Article (Scientific journals)
Neuroplasticity in F16 fighter jet pilots.
Radstake, Wilhelmina E; Jillings, Steven; Laureys, Steven et al.
2023In Frontiers in Physiology, 14, p. 1082166
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Keywords :
MRI; brain; fighter pilots; gravity transitions; neuroplasticity; resting state fMRI
Abstract :
[en] Exposure to altered g-levels causes unusual sensorimotor demands that must be dealt with by the brain. This study aimed to investigate whether fighter pilots, who are exposed to frequent g-level transitions and high g-levels, show differential functional characteristics compared to matched controls, indicative of neuroplasticity. We acquired resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging data to assess brain functional connectivity (FC) changes with increasing flight experience in pilots and to assess differences in FC between pilots and controls. We performed whole-brain exploratory and region-of-interest (ROI) analyses, with the right parietal operculum 2 (OP2) and the right angular gyrus (AG) as ROIs. Our results show positive correlations with flight experience in the left inferior and right middle frontal gyri, and in the right temporal pole. Negative correlations were observed in primary sensorimotor regions. We found decreased whole-brain functional connectivity of the left inferior frontal gyrus in fighter pilots compared to controls and this cluster showed decreased functional connectivity with the medial superior frontal gyrus. Functional connectivity increased between the right parietal operculum 2 and the left visual cortex, and between the right and left angular gyrus in pilots compared to controls. These findings suggest altered motor, vestibular, and multisensory processing in the brains of fighter pilots, possibly reflecting coping strategies to altered sensorimotor demands during flight. Altered functional connectivity in frontal areas may reflect adaptive cognitive strategies to cope with challenging conditions during flight. These findings provide novel insights into brain functional characteristics of fighter pilots, which may be of interest to humans traveling to space.
Disciplines :
Neurosciences & behavior
Author, co-author :
Radstake, Wilhelmina E;  Radiobiology Unit, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN, Mol, Belgium.
Jillings, Steven;  Laboratory for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace, University of Antwerp,
Laureys, Steven  ;  Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Liège - CHU > > Centre du Cerveau² ; Coma Science Group, GIGA Consciousness, GIGA Institute, University and University
Demertzi, Athina  ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > GIGA > GIGA CRC In vivo Imaging - Physiology of Cognition
Sunaert, Stefan;  Translational MRI, Department of Imaging and Pathology, KU Leuven and University
Van Ombergen, Angelique;  Laboratory for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace, University of Antwerp,  ; Department of Translational Neurosciences-ENT, University of Antwerp, Antwerp,
Wuyts, Floris L;  Laboratory for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace, University of Antwerp,
Language :
Title :
Neuroplasticity in F16 fighter jet pilots.
Publication date :
Journal title :
Frontiers in Physiology
Publisher :
Frontiers Media S.A., Ch
Volume :
Pages :
Peer reviewed :
Peer Reviewed verified by ORBi
Commentary :
Copyright © 2023 Radstake, Jillings, Laureys, Demertzi, Sunaert, Van Ombergen and Wuyts.
Available on ORBi :
since 23 July 2023


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