The potential to unlimitedly expand and generate differentiated cell types is a key feature of somatic stem cells. Within the nervous system, cellular and environmental determinants tightly control the expansion and differentiation of neural stem cells. Importantly, a number of studies indicate that changes in cell cycle length can influence development and physiopathology of the nervous system, and may have played a role during evolution of the mammalian brain. Specifically, it has been suggested that the length of G1 can directly influence the differentiation of neural precursors. This has prompted the proposal of a model to explain how manipulation of G1 length can be used to expand neural stem cells. If validated in non-neural systems, this model may provide the means to control the proliferation vs. differentiation of somatic stem cells, which will represent a significant advance in the field.