Defining neuroplasticity

Handb Clin Neurol. 2022;184:3-18. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-819410-2.00001-1.


Neuroplasticity, i.e., the modifiability of the brain, is different in development and adulthood. The first includes changes in: (i) neurogenesis and control of neuron number; (ii) neuronal migration; (iii) differentiation of the somato-dendritic and axonal phenotypes; (iv) formation of connections; (v) cytoarchitectonic differentiation. These changes are often interrelated and can lead to: (vi) system-wide modifications of brain structure as well as to (vii) acquisition of specific functions such as ocular dominance or language. Myelination appears to be plastic both in development and adulthood, at least, in rodents. Adult neuroplasticity is limited, and is mainly expressed as changes in the strength of excitatory and inhibitory synapses while the attempts to regenerate connections have met with limited success. The outcomes of neuroplasticity are not necessarily adaptive, but can also be the cause of neurological and psychiatric pathologies.

Keywords: Activity; Brain development; Cell number; Connections; Cytoarchitectonic; Differentiation; Myelin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Axons
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons
  • Synapses*