The human brain is extraordinarily complex, composed of billions of neurons and trillions of synaptic connections. Neurons are organized into circuit assemblies that are modulated by specific interneurons and non-neuronal cells, such as glia and astrocytes. Data on human genome sequences predicts that each of these cells in the human brain has the potential of expressing ∼20 000 protein coding genes and tens of thousands of noncoding RNAs. A major challenge in neuroscience is to determine (1) how individual neurons and circuitry utilize this potential during development and maturation of the nervous system, and for higher brain functions such as cognition, and (2) how this potential is altered in neurological and psychiatric disorders. In this review, we will discuss how recent advances in next generation sequencing, proteomics and bioinformatics have transformed our understanding of gene expression and the functions of neural circuitry, memory storage, and disorders of cognition.