Almost all the information that is needed to specify thalamocortical and neocortical wiring derives from patterned electrical activity induced by the environment. Wiring accuracy must be limited by the anatomical specificity of the cascade of events triggered by neural activity and culminating in synaptogenesis. We present a simple model of learning in the presence of plasticity errors. One way to achieve learning specificity is to build better synapses. We discuss an alternative, circuit–based, approach that only allows plasticity at connections that support highly selective correlations. This circuit resembles some of the more puzzling aspects of thalamocorticothalamic circuitry.