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The brain is tasked with choosing actions that maximize an animal's chances of survival and reproduction. These choices must be flexible and informed by the current state of the environment, the needs of the body, and the outcomes of past actions. This information is physiologically encoded and processed across different brain regions on a wide range of spatial scales, from molecules in single synapses to networks of brain areas. Uncovering these spatially distributed neural interactions underlying behavior requires investigations that span a similar range of spatial scales. Larval zebrafish, given their small size, transparency, and ease of genetic access, are a good model organism for such investigations, allowing the use of modern microscopy, molecular biology, and computational techniques. These approaches are yielding new insights into the mechanistic basis of behavioral states, which we review here and compare to related studies in mammalian species.