Transcriptional events involved in the development of human cerebral neocortex are poorly understood. Here, we analyzed the temporal dynamics and laterality of gene expression in human and macaque monkey neocortex. We found that interareal differences exhibit a temporal hourglass pattern, dividing the human neocortical development into three major phases. The first phase, corresponding to prenatal development, is characterized by the highest number of differential expressed genes among areas and gradient-like expression patterns, including those that are different between human and macaque. The second, preadolescent phase, is characterized by lesser interareal expression differences and by an increased synchronization of areal transcriptomes. During the third phase, from adolescence onward, differential expression among areas increases again driven predominantly by a subset of areas, without obvious gradient-like patterns. Analyses of left-right gene expression revealed population-level global symmetry throughout the fetal and postnatal time span. Thus, human neocortical topographic gene expression is temporally specified and globally symmetric.
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