Many diverse behaviors exhibit clear circadian rhythms in their expression. In mammals, these rhythms originate from a neural circadian clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). Recently, signaling pathways activated by light in the SCN have begun to be identified. A specific set of immediate-early genes is induced by light in the SCN, and their expression is correlated with the resetting of circadian behavioral rhythms. These light-regulated immediate-early genes offer multiple inroads into the biology of the SCN: first, they are functional markers for the activation of SCN neurons by light; second, they can direct us to the upstream light-activated (and clock-regulated) signal transduction pathways which mediate their induction; and finally, they encode transcription factor proteins which may play a role in the molecular mechanism of resetting the circadian clock.