Behavioral experience has long been known to influence functional outcome after brain injury, but only recently has its pervasive role in the reorganization of the adult brain after damage become appreciated. We briefly review findings from animal models on the role of experience in shaping neuronal events after stroke-like injury. Experience-dependent neural plasticity can be enhanced or impaired by brain damage, depending upon injury parameters and timing. The neuronal growth response to some experiences is heightened due to interactions with denervation-induced plasticity. This includes compensatory behavioral strategies developed in response to functional impairments. Early behavioral experiences can constrain later experience-dependent plasticity, leading to suboptimal functional outcome. Time dependencies and facets of neural growth patterns are reminiscent of experience-expectant processes that shape brain development. As with sensitive periods in brain development, this process may establish behavioral patterns early after brain injury which are relatively resistant to later change. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 53:466–475, 2011.