In neurology, as in all branches of medicine, symptoms of disease and the resulting burden of illness and disability are not simply the consequence of the injury, inflammation or dysfunction of a given organ; they also reflect the consequences of the nervous system's attempt to adapt to the insult. This plastic response includes compensatory changes that prove adaptive for the individual, as well as changes that contribute to functional disability and are, therefore, maladaptive. In this context, brain stimulation techniques tailored to modulate individual plastic changes associated with neurological diseases might enhance clinical benefits and minimize adverse effects. In this Review, we discuss the use of two noninvasive brain stimulation techniques--repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation--to modulate activity in the targeted cortex or in a dysfunctional network, to restore an adaptive equilibrium in a disrupted network for best behavioral outcome, and to suppress plastic changes for functional advantage. We review randomized controlled studies, in focal epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, recovery from stroke, and chronic pain, to illustrate these principles, and we present evidence for the clinical effects of these two techniques.