Subplate neurons are a transient population of neurons in the brain forming one of the first functional cortical circuits. Past experiments have demonstrated their importance in growth of thalamocortical afferents into the cortical plate and later segregation of thalamocortical afferents. Recently, subplate neurons have been shown to be required for the functional maturation of both thalamocortical connections and mature visual responses in visual cortex. These findings suggest that thalamocortical afferents might not segregate properly in the absence of subplate neurons because the thalamocortical synapse does not mature. Subplate neurons are unique in that they form a circuit that appears to promote synaptic scaling and maturation. Although the precise contribution of subplate neurons within the context of cortical development is unknown, they might play an early role in providing thalamic input to cortex that then interacts with learning rules governing synaptic strengthening at the thalamocortical synapse. Because they appear to play multiple key roles at different stages of development, subplate neurons might also play a role in the pathology of developmental disorders, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.