A brain adaptation view of plasticity: Is synaptic plasticity an overly limited concept?

Aaron W. Grossman, James D. Churchill, Kathy E. Bates, Jeffrey A. Kleim, William T. Greenough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


A view that is emerging is that the brain has multiple forms of plasticity that must be governed, at least in part, by independent mechanisms. This view is illustrated by: (1) the apparent separate governance of some non-neural changes by activity, in contrast to synaptic changes driven by learning; (2) the apparent independence of different kinds of synaptic changes that occur in response to the learning aspects of training; (3) the occurrence of separate patterns of synaptic plasticity in the same system in response to different task demands; and (4) apparent dissociations between behaviorally induced synaptogenesis and LTP. The historical focus of research and theory in areas ranging from learning and memory to experiential modulation of brain development has been heavily upon synaptic plasticity since shortly after the discovery of the synapse. Based upon available data, it could be argued that: (1) synaptic, and even neuronal, plasticity is but a small fraction of the range of changes that occur in response to experience; and (2) we are just beginning to understand the importance of these other forms of brain plasticity. Appreciation of this aspect of the brain's adaptive process may allow us to better understand the capacity of the brain to tailor a particular set of changes to the demands of the specific experiences that generated them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-108
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in brain research
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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