One of the factors leading to the virtual neglect of the long-term potential for functional recovery following brain damage was the eclipse of plasticity concepts during the 100 years following Broca's 1861 publication on location of function. However, in the last 30 years evidence has been accumulating that demonstrates the plasticity of the brain and thus recovery potential is a subject of practical as well as theoretical interest. "Unmasking" of relatively inactive pathways, the taking over of functional representation by undamaged brain tissue, and neuronal group selection are among the mechanisms that are being explored. Human models of recovery of function include hemispherectomy patients that have regained bilateral function, facial paralysis patients who recover function (with appropriate rehabilitation) after VII-XII cranial nerve anastomosis, and patients with muscle transpositions to re-establish lost motor functions. The role of early and late rehabilitation, with attention to psychosocial and environmental factors, appears to be critical for recovery.