Often distinct elements serve similar functions within a network. However, it is unclear whether this network degeneracy is beneficial, or merely a reflection of tighter regulation of overall network performance relative to individual neuronal properties. We review circumstances where data strongly suggest that degeneracy is beneficial in that it makes network function more robust. Importantly, network degeneracy is likely to have functional consequences that are not widely appreciated. This is likely to be true when network activity is configured by modulators with persistent actions, and the history of network activity potentially impacts subsequent functioning. Data suggest that degeneracy in this context may be important for the creation of latent memories, and for state-dependent task switching.
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