The human brain is a complex organ with multiple competing imperatives. It must perceive and interpret the world, incorporate new information, and maintain its functional integrity over the lifespan. Neural activity is associated with all of these processes. Spontaneous BOLD signals have been invoked as representing neural activity associated with all of these processes. However, their exact role in these processes remains controversial. Here, we review learning machine theory, molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and homeostasis, and recent experimental evidence to suggest that spontaneous BOLD activity may be more closely aligned with off-line plasticity and homeostatic processes than on-line fluctuations in cognitive content.