Recent embryological studies are beginning to establish that the underlying organization of the forebrain may be reduced to relatively simple elements that are common to all vertebrates. We begin this chapter by reviewing studies that describe the similarities in prospective fate and molecular organization of the developing neural plate in fish, frogs, chickens, and mice. The chapter next addresses mechanisms that regulate regional specification in the anterior central nervous system. There is now evidence that the axial mesendoderm anterior to the notochord (the prechordal plate) has a central role in induction of the floor and basal plate primordia (hypothalamus) of the forebrain. Patterning of the anterolateral neural plate (telencephalon) may be regulated by FGF8 produced in the anterior neural ridge. Thus, the synthesis of information from fate mapping and experimental embryological and genetic studies is illuminating the mechanisms that generate the different components of the forebrain.