Synapses are the primary means for transmitting information from one neuron to the next. They are formed during the development of the nervous system, and the formation of appropriate synapses is crucial for the establishment of neuronal circuits that underlie behavior and cognition. Understanding how synapses form and are maintained will allow us to address developmental disorders such as autism, mental retardation and possibly also psychological disorders. A number of biochemical and proteomic studies have revealed a diverse and vast assortment of molecules that are present at the synapse. It is now important to untangle this large array of proteins and determine how it assembles into a functioning unit. Here we focus on recent reports describing how synaptic cell adhesion molecules interact with and organize the presynaptic and postsynaptic specializations of both excitatory and inhibitory central synapses.