Systems neuroscience is focused on how ensemble properties in the brain, such as the activity of neuronal circuits, gives rise to internal brain states and behavior. Many of the studies in this field have traditionally involved electrophysiological recordings and computational approaches that attempt to decode how the brain transforms inputs into functional outputs. More recently, systems neuroscience has received an infusion of approaches and techniques that allow the manipulation (e.g., optogenetics, chemogenetics) and imaging (e.g., two-photon imaging, head mounted fluorescent microscopes) of neurons, neurocircuits, their inputs and outputs. Here, we will review novel approaches that allow the manipulation and imaging of specific molecular mechanisms in specific cells (not just neurons), cell ensembles and brain regions. These molecular approaches, with the specificity and temporal resolution appropriate for systems studies, promise to infuse the field with novel ideas, emphases and directions, and are motivating the emergence of a molecularly oriented systems neuroscience, a new discipline that studies how the spatial and temporal patterns of molecular systems modulate circuits and brain networks, and consequently shape the properties of brain states and behavior.