We humans have a dilemma: our brains are both exceptionally capable and exquisitely vulnerable. We are capable of music, art, mathematics, dance and other remarkable feats. But we also are at risk of a host of diseases, from autism during childhood to Alzheimer’s late in life. At the Salk Institute, we illuminate how genes control neurons, how neural circuits process information and how our brains enable us to think and make decisions. By combining these approaches, we are making rapid progress in decoding the brain. We are entering a new era in neuroscience where our knowledge of the brain matches the urgent need to prevent and treat disease of the brain.