Memories are stored within neuronal ensembles in the brain. Modern genetic techniques can be used to not only visualize specific neuronal ensembles that encode memories (e.g., fear, craving) but also to selectively manipulate those neurons. These techniques are now being expanded for the study of various types of memory. In this review, we will summarize the genetic methods used to visualize and manipulate neurons involved in the representation of memory engrams. The methods will help clarify how memory is encoded, stored and processed in the brain. Furthermore, these approaches may contribute to our understanding of the pathological mechanisms associated with human memory disorders and, ultimately, may aid the development of therapeutic strategies to ameliorate these diseases.