Homeostatic plasticity in the CNS: synaptic and intrinsic forms

J Physiol Paris. 2003 Jul-Nov;97(4-6):391-402. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2004.01.005.


The study of experience-dependent plasticity has been dominated by questions of how Hebbian plasticity mechanisms act during learning and development. This is unsurprising as Hebbian plasticity constitutes the most fully developed and influential model of how information is stored in neural circuits and how neural circuitry can develop without extensive genetic instructions. Yet Hebbian plasticity may not be sufficient for understanding either learning or development: the dramatic changes in synapse number and strength that can be produced by this kind of plasticity tend to threaten the stability of neural circuits. Recent work has suggested that, in addition to Hebbian plasticity, homeostatic regulatory mechanisms are active in a variety of preparations. These mechanisms alter both the synaptic connections between neurons and the intrinsic electrical properties of individual neurons, in such a way as to maintain some constancy in neuronal properties despite the changes wrought by Hebbian mechanisms. Here we review the evidence for homeostatic plasticity in the central nervous system, with special emphasis on results from cortical preparations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*