Cortical development progresses through an early phase of progenitor expansion, a middle phase of neurogenesis, and a final phase of gliogenesis. During the middle phase, the neurogenic phase, the neocortical primordium balances the production of neurons against the maintenance of neural precursor cells (NPCs). The final number of neurons is determined by the duration of the neurogenic phase, the rate of NPC division, and the mode of NPC division, that is, whether a division gives rise to two NPCs, one NPC and one cell committed to the neuronal lineage, or two committed cells. We discuss here recent advances in understanding these key aspects that are fundamental for normal brain development.
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