The importance of the genome for behaviour has been amply demonstrated by the tools of population genetics. A deeper understanding of the relationship between genes and behaviour requires an investigation of how they influence brain development and neuronal function. This is the objective of neurogenetics. Rigid genetic control of brain structure in insects is indicated by bilateral symmetry and by the similarity of isogenic brains (in locust). In large parts of the brain (e.g. optic lobes) the role of developmental variability seems to be as limited as in nematodes, but at closer inspection, the growth of at least some brain structures (e.g. mushroom bodies) is influenced by experience, similar to the growth of some vertebrate systems. The role of individual genes for brain development and brain function is being studied in Drosophila melanogaster. Here, many single gene mutations affecting the brain and behaviour have been isolated. They either alter the development of neural circuits or modify cellular functions of neurones. Mutations of both categories are often remarkably specific (i.e. they influence only certain functional subsystems, leaving others unaffected). Therefore, functional subsystems are to some degree ontogenetic units under independent genetic control. Telling examples are sexual dimorphisms of behaviour and brain structure. The already peripheral separation of functional pathways in the brain seems to be partially due to the selective advantage of independent genetic modifiability of functions.

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