A critical problem in neuroscience is to understand how neurons wire up correctly to form functional circuits in the brain. New technological and molecular advances have begun to open windows into the inner workings of the developing brain and we are now seeing the first glimpses of how circuits come together to orchestrate coherent responses to the outside world. In this programme we exploit the latest in molecular, optogenetic, electrophysiological and live-imaging tools to study circuit formation and plasticity across a range of different species, from worms to rodents. Our aim is to provide a structural and functional description of the emergence of neuronal circuits in the brain and link it to behaviour. This will need an understanding of the molecular code behind the wiring diagram of the developing brain, as well as the modulatory signals that shape connectivity and the emergence of network function. It will also need to cover the vast spatio-temporal scales involved, from small synapses to large neuronal ensembles, and from rapid synaptic transmission events to the gradual growth of a neuron. In so doing, we aim to build a coherent picture of how functional circuits in the brain come together during development to control behaviour.