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Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are a family of enzymes that alter gene expression patterns by modifying chromatin architecture. There are 11 mammalian HDACs that are classified by homology into four subfamilies, all with distinct expression patterns in the brain. Through the use of pharmacological HDAC inhibitors, and more recently HDAC knockout mice, the role of these enzymes in the central nervous system are starting to be elucidated. We will discuss the latest findings on the specific or redundant roles of individual HDACs in the brain as well as the impact of HDAC function on complex behavior, with a focus on learning, memory formation, and affective behavior. Potential HDAC-mediated cellular mechanisms underlying those behaviors are discussed.