Stroke remains a leading cause of adult disability. Some degree of spontaneous behavioral recovery is usually seen in the weeks after stroke onset. Variability in recovery is substantial across human patients. Some principles have emerged; for example, recovery occurs slowest in those destined to have less successful outcomes. Animal studies have extended these observations, providing insight into a broad range of underlying molecular and physiological events. Brain mapping studies in human patients have provided observations at the systems level that often parallel findings in animals. In general, the best outcomes are associated with the greatest return toward the normal state of brain functional organization. Reorganization of surviving central nervous system elements supports behavioral recovery, for example, through changes in interhemispheric lateralization, activity of association cortices linked to injured zones, and organization of cortical representational maps. A number of factors influence events supporting stroke recovery, such as demographics, behavioral experience, and perhaps genetics. Such measures gain importance when viewed as covariates in therapeutic trials of restorative agents that target stroke recovery.