Study Suggests Novice Pilots Pick Up Visual Skills By Observing Expert's Eye Movements

Study Suggests Novice Pilots Pick Up Visual Skills By Observing Expert's Eye Movements

A new study out of SUNY Downstate Medical Center found that student pilots could improve their visual skills just by observing the eye movements of expert pilots. Everyone involved in this research believes it could help create more effective pilot-training programs.

Novice pilots were split into two groups during this study. While both groups watched a video of an expert pilot solving a complicated problem, only the second group saw where the pilot was looking thanks to visual-tracking technology. In the second group's video, dots appeared on the screen in real-time to illustrate where pilot was directing his gaze.

When the students were tested afterward, researchers found that the second group had superior eye skills than the first. Interestingly, study authors didn't tell the second group that the dots represented the pilot's eye position. This finding suggests student pilots could pick up an expert's visual cues subconsciously with the right eye-tracking technology.

Before this study, researchers tested whether or not a computer could tell the difference between a novice and an expert pilot's eye movements. Amazingly, a computer algorithm could accurately detect a pilot's rank via eye detection about 80 percent of the time.

Stephen L. Macknik, who teaches ophthalmology and physiology at SUNY, was the head researcher on this study. Dr. Macknik told reporters that he hopes this research could be translated into practical "eye-movement based training" programs for novice aviators.

Wayne J. Riley, the current president of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, presented these findings to scientists at the 2017 Neuroscience gathering. He told the crowd of attendees this study is a prime example of SUNY's mission to keep Americans "healthy and safe."

The Neuroscience gathering is an annual event sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience. The event attracts experts from around the world to discuss the latest news in the fields of neurology and technology. The 2017 Neuroscience meeting, which marks the 47th on record, was held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1860, the SUNY Downstate Medical Center is a major institution for healthcare professionals in Brooklyn. There are currently around 2,000 full-time students at SUNY studying in various health-related fields such as nursing, medicine, and biotechnology.

For those interested in learning more about this study, SUNY researchers published a news article on their official website. This press release was entitled, "Novice Pilots Improve Visual Responses to Emergency Simulation by Watching Experts' Eye Movements."

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