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Behaviour is governed by activity in highly structured neural circuits. Genetically targeted sensors and switches facilitate measurement and manipulation of activity in vivo, linking activity in defined nodes of neural circuits to behaviour. Because of access to specific cell types, these molecular tools will have the largest impact in genetic model systems such as the mouse. Emerging assays of mouse behaviour are beginning to rival those of behaving monkeys in terms of stimulus and behavioural control. We predict that the confluence of new behavioural and molecular tools in the mouse will reveal the logic of complex mammalian circuits.