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Cell. 2015 Oct 8;163(2):285-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.09.031.

Beyond Molecular Codes: Simple Rules to Wire Complex Brains.

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Center for the Biology of Disease, VIB, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; Center for Human Genetics, University of Leuven School of Medicine, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Electronic address:
Division of Neurobiology, Institute for Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, 14195 Berlin, Germany; NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence, Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


Molecular codes, like postal zip codes, are generally considered a robust way to ensure the specificity of neuronal target selection. However, a code capable of unambiguously generating complex neural circuits is difficult to conceive. Here, we re-examine the notion of molecular codes in the light of developmental algorithms. We explore how molecules and mechanisms that have been considered part of a code may alternatively implement simple pattern formation rules sufficient to ensure wiring specificity in neural circuits. This analysis delineates a pattern-based framework for circuit construction that may contribute to our understanding of brain wiring.

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