The functional integrity of the neocortical circuit relies on the precise production of diverse neuron populations and their assembly during development. In recent years, extensive progress has been made in the understanding of the mechanisms that control differentiation of each neuronal type within the neocortex. In this review, we address how the elaborate neocortical cytoarchitecture is established from a simple neuroepithelium based on recent studies examining the spatiotemporal mechanisms of neuronal subtype specification. We further discuss the critical events that underlie the conversion of the stem amniotes cerebrum to a mammalian-type neocortex, and extend these key findings in the light of mammalian evolution to understand how the neocortex in humans evolved from common ancestral mammals.
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