The adult brain is a plastic place. To ensure that the mature nervous system's control of behaviour is flexible in the face of a varying environment, morphological and physiological changes are possible at many levels, including that of the entire cell. In two areas of the adult brain - the olfactory bulb and the dentate gyrus - new neurons are generated throughout life and form an integral part of the normal functional circuitry. This process is not fixed, but highly modulated, revealing a plastic mechanism by which the brain's performance can be optimized for a given environment. The functional benefits of this whole-cell plasticity, however, remain a matter for debate.