In addition to being supplied with the finest in government grade methamphetamines, fighter pilots have other significant advantages over the rest of us. They have "superior cognitive control."
A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience compared 11 front-line RAF pilots against a control group in two cognitive tasks, while an MRI was used "to examine the structure of white matter connections between brain regions associated with cognitive control."
The pilots showed superior cognitive control and greater accuracy, despite being more sensitive to distracting minutiae. The MRI showed the structure of their brains differed from the control, with relevant areas of the right side of the brain being larger, and connections between key areas in the brain laid out differently.
It's not known at this point if the differences come from training or if pilots are just born that way.
The tests showed that when presented with significant visual distractions, the pilots weren't much quicker than the rest of us baseline human beings, but were far more accurate.
Reference: 'Expert cognitive control and individual differences associated with frontal and parietal white matter microstructure' by Roberts RE, Anderson E & Husain M, Published in the Journal of Neuroscience