The brain is astonishing in its complexity and capacity for change. This has fascinated scientists for more than a century, filling the pages of this journal for the past 25 years. But a paradigm shift is underway. It seems likely that the plasticity that drives our ability to learn and remember can only be meaningful in the context of otherwise stable, reproducible, and predictable baseline neural function. Without the existence of potent mechanisms that stabilize neural function, our capacity to learn and remember would be lost in the chaos of daily experiential change. This underscores two great mysteries in neuroscience. How are the functional properties of individual neurons and neural circuits stably maintained throughout life? And, in the face of potent stabilizing mechanisms, how can neural circuitry be modified during neural development, learning, and memory? Answers are emerging in the rapidly developing field of homeostatic plasticity.
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