Molecular codes, like postal zip codes, are generally considered a robust way to ensure the specificity of neuronal target selection. However, a code capable of unambiguously generating complex neural circuits is difficult to conceive. Here, we re-examine the notion of molecular codes in the light of developmental algorithms. We explore how molecules and mechanisms that have been considered part of a code may alternatively implement simple pattern formation rules sufficient to ensure wiring specificity in neural circuits. This analysis delineates a pattern-based framework for circuit construction that may contribute to our understanding of brain wiring.
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