Understanding how the nervous system and brain of higher animals function is one of the most fascinating and mysterious questions in biology. Understanding the complex organization of the neurons within the brain requires the proper understanding of which genes control the development, connectivity, and function of these neurons. It also requires an understanding of which behaviors these neurons control in the organism. In my laboratory, my students and I strive to understand the underlying mechanisms that govern these captivating questions. To do this, we utilize the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as an in vivo model organism. We exploit the powerful genetic and behavioral techniques Drosophila possess to better understand how genes regulate neural development in the central nervous system, and how defects in these gene affect behavior of the organism. Many of the genes we study are associated with human disease, and our laboratory has created novel models for CHARGE syndrome, Pitt-Hopkins, and Alzheimer's disease in Drosophila. Through our research, we hope to achieve a better understanding of the basic processes involved in nervous system development and function, but we also hope that our findings could be translated into potential therapeutics for some of the diseases we study as well.