Versatility and Flexibility of Cortical Circuits

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Abstract

Cortical circuits are known to be plastic and adaptable, as shown by an impressive body of evidence demonstrating the ability of cortical circuits to adapt to changes in environmental stimuli, development, learning, and insults. In this review, we will discuss some of the features of cortical circuits that are thought to facilitate cortical circuit versatility and flexibility. Throughout life, cortical circuits can be extensively shaped and refined by experience while preserving their overall organization, suggesting that mechanisms are in place to favor change but also to stabilize some aspects of the circuit. First, we will describe the basic organization and some of the common features of cortical circuits. We will then discuss how this underlying cortical structure provides a substrate for the experience- and learning-dependent processes that contribute to cortical flexibility.

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