The Miller lab uses the model organism, C. elegans, to study the fundamental processes of neuronal differentiation and synaptic assembly. The simplicity and well-defined structure of the C. elegans nervous system offer an unparalleled opportunity to define the genetic rules that govern the creation and function of this network. Molecular genetic analysis has revealed striking similarities between genes that define these events in mammals and in nematodes. We therefore believe that our work in C. elegans will reveal new molecules with key roles in brain development. For example, our work has shown that synaptic specificity in the motor circuit is controlled by a transcription factors that also specify motor neuron identity in the vertebrate spinal cord. In other work, we have shown that, RPM-1/Highwire, a highly conserved component of the presynaptic zone, regulates synaptic assembly by controlling gene expression. We have pioneered the development of new microarray based strategies for identifying the downstream genes in these two pathways. This work is highly relevant to the mission of the Kennedy Center of forging a link between the fundamental processes of synapse formation and brain function to meet the overarching goal of understanding the genetic and cell biological underpinnings of human mental disorders.