Regionalization of the cerebral cortex occurs during development by the formation of anatomically and functionally discrete areas of the brain. Descriptive evidence based on expression of molecules and structural features suggests that an early parcelation of the cerebral wall may occur during fetal development. Experimental strategies using tissue transplants and cell culture models have explored the nature of the timing of areal specification. New signaling systems displaying the sensitivity of precursor cells to environmental cues that define the fate of neurons destined for specific areas of the cortex have been discovered. Studies in the field now suggest mechanisms of regulating cell phenotype in the cortex that are common to all parts of the neuraxis.