Researchers studied surgeons as they performed surgical simulations and found they could identify novice from experienced surgeons by analyzing brain scans taken as the physicians worked.
Prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in planning complex behaviors was more active in the novices. Skilled surgeons had more activity in the motor cortex, which is important for movement. The researchers, who developed a machine-learning system to analyze the scans, also showed that training resulted in a shift toward higher activity in the motor cortex.
The scans were not MRIs but fNIRS, short for functional near-infrared spectroscopy. A person wears a skull cap embedded with tiny lasers that beam near-infrared light into the skull. Some of that light reflects back out and can be captured by a detector placed nearby. The quality of the detected light gives scientists clues as to whether blood flowing to the brain is oxygenated or not. An increase in oxygenated blood suggests more brain activity.
Brain Scans Can Detect Who Has Better Skills - WSJ