The symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD) appear only after substantial degeneration of the dopaminergic neuron system (e.g. an 80% depletion of striatal dopamine)--that is, there is a substantive presymptomatic period of the disease. It is widely believed that dopamine-related compensatory mechanisms are responsible for delaying the appearance of symptoms. Recent advances in understanding the presymptomatic phase of PD have increased our understanding of these dopamine-related compensatory mechanisms and have highlighted the role of non-dopamine-mediated mechanisms both within and outside the basal ganglia. This increased knowledge of plasticity within cortical-basal-ganglia-thalamocortical circuitry as dopaminergic neuron degeneration progresses has implications for understanding plasticity in neural circuits generally and, more specifically, for developing novel therapeutics or presymptomatic diagnostics for PD.