Although spontaneous regeneration of lesioned fibres is limited in the adult central nervous system, many people that suffer from incomplete spinal cord injuries show significant functional recovery. This recovery process can go on for several years after the injury and probably depends on the reorganization of circuits that have been spared by the lesion. Synaptic plasticity in pre-existing pathways and the formation of new circuits through collateral sprouting of lesioned and unlesioned fibres are important components of this recovery process. These reorganization processes might occur in cortical and subcortical motor centres, in the spinal cord below the lesion, and in the spared fibre tracts that connect these centres. Functional and anatomical evidence exists that spontaneous plasticity can be potentiated by activity, as well as by specific experimental manipulations. These studies prepare the way to a better understanding of rehabilitation treatments and to the development of new approaches to treat spinal cord injury.