The aim of the Royaumont Symposium was to review various dynamic aspects of adaptive changes in functional connectivity, expressed in cortical networks during development, learning, and possibly during recognition and cognitive processing. The link between the various experimental and theoretical models was the comparison of cellular and molecular mechanisms that could be involved in the up- and down-regulation of functional connectivity, over different time scales. These processes have been investigated using several approaches in parallel: 1) at the molecular/subcellular level, to identify postsynaptic receptors (NMDA, mGluR) and second messengers (calcium protein kinases and phosphatases) involved in the induction of synaptic potentiation and depression, and to characterize diffusible factors (NO), released pre- or postsynaptically, involved in the spatial generalization of local changes to neighboring synapses; 2) at the level of integrating networks, to develop electrophysiological (single and multiple recording), pharmacological and optical imaging techniques in order to compare the dynamics of adaptive processes put into play during the natural development of cortical specificity and connectivity, versus those triggered during forced regimes of temporal correlations between pre- and post synaptic activities. Both in vitro and in vivo approaches have been combined in the primary visual cortex of the developing and adult vertebrate (rat, guinea-pig, ferret, cat and monkey). The various forms of 'slow' synaptic plasticity, demonstrated during epigenesis and selective phases of learning in the adult, can be compared with 'fast' forms of functional coupling (or synchronous firing) shown to develop during the time span required for perception and cognitive processing Phenomenology of the dynamics in functional connectivity and their relative dependence on temporal correlation in neuronal activity have been analyzed in each of these situations. Experimental results have been compared at different levels of neuronal integration (synapse, column map and cell assembly) in order to gain a better understanding of functional grouping within cortical networks.