Send to

Choose Destination
Dev Neuropsychol. 2000;18(2):237-72.

Neural plasticity and cognitive development.

Author information

Department of Cognitive Science 0515, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0515, USA.


It has been well documented that the effects of early occurring brain injury are often attenuated relative to later occurring injury. The traditional neuropsychological account of these observations is that, although the developing neural system normally proceeds along a well-specified maturational course, it has a transient capacity for plastic reorganization that can be recruited in the wake of injury. This characterization of early neural plasticity is limited and fails to capture the much more pervasive role of plasticity in development. This article examines the role of neural plasticity in development and learning. Data from both animal and human studies show that plasticity plays a central role in the normal development of neural systems allowing for adaptation and response to both exogenous and endogenous input. The capacity for reorganization and change is a critical feature of neural development, particularly in the postnatal period. Subtractive processes play a major role in the shaping and sculpting of neural organization. However, plasticity is neither transient nor unique to developing organisms. With development, neural systems stabilize and optimal patterns of functioning are achieved. Stabilization reduces, but does not eliminate, the capacity of the system to adapt. As the system stabilizes, plasticity becomes a less prominent feature of neural functioning, but it is not absent from the adult system. The implications of this broader view of plasticity for our understanding of development following early brain damage are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center