Formation of a functional nervous system requires that distinct types of cells develop at quite precise times and places. A goal of developmental neurobiologists is to understand the nature of the patterning mechanisms that specify neural cells for particular fates. In recent years, zebrafish has emerged as new model system for investigating vertebrate neural development, offering a unique combination of genetic, cellular, and molecular tools. Studies using zebrafish provide important new insights concerning the source and nature of molecular signals that induce and pattern the central nervous system.
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