During mouse embryonic development, neural progenitors lengthen the G1 phase of the cell cycle and this has been suggested to be a cause, rather than a consequence, of neurogenesis. To investigate whether G1 lengthening alone may cause the switch of cortical progenitors from proliferation to neurogenesis, we manipulated the expression of cdk/cyclin complexes and found that cdk4/cyclinD1 overexpression prevents G1 lengthening without affecting cell growth, cleavage plane, or cell cycle synchrony with interkinetic nuclear migration. Specifically, overexpression of cdk4/cyclinD1 inhibited neurogenesis while increasing the generation and expansion of basal (intermediate) progenitors, resulting in a thicker subventricular zone and larger surface area of the postnatal cortex originating from cdk4/cyclinD1-transfected progenitors. Conversely, lengthening of G1 by cdk4/cyclinD1-RNAi displayed the opposite effects. Thus, G1 lengthening is necessary and sufficient to switch neural progenitors to neurogenesis, and overexpression of cdk4/cyclinD1 can be used to increase progenitor expansion and, perhaps, cortical surface area.