This review summarized the contribution to neurobiology achieved through the use of invertebrate preparations in the second half of the 20th century. This fascinating period was preceded by pioneers who explored a wide variety of invertebrate phyla and developed various preparations appropriate for electrophysiological studies. Their work advanced general knowledge about neuronal properties (dendritic, somatic, and axonal excitability; pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms). The study of invertebrates made it possible to identify cell bodies in different ganglia, and monitor their operation in the course of behavior. In the 1970s, the details of central neural circuits in worms, molluscs, insects, and crustaceans were characterized for the first time and well before equivalent findings were made in vertebrate preparations. The concept and nature of a central pattern generator (CPG) have been studied in detail, and the stomatogastric nervous system (STNS) is a fine example, having led to many major developments since it was first examined. The final part of the review is a discussion of recent neuroethological studies that have addressed simple cognitive functions and confirmed the utility of invertebrate models. After presenting our invertebrate "mice," the worm Caenorhabditis elegans and the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, our conclusion, based on arguments very different from those used fifty years ago, is that invertebrate models are still essential for acquiring insight into the complexity of the brain.