Neanderthals are the closest relatives to modern humans. Comparisons with them can therefore provide fascinating insights into what makes present-day humans unique, for example regarding the development of the brain. The neocortex, the largest part of the outer layer of the brain, is unique to mammals and crucial for many cognitive capacities. It expanded dramatically during human evolution in species ancestral to both Neanderthals and modern humans, resulting that both Neanderthals and modern humans having brains of similar sizes. However, almost nothing is known about how modern human and Neanderthal brains may have differed in terms of their development and function. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) in Leipzig have now discovered that neural stem cells – the cells from which neurons in the developing neocortex derive – spend more time preparing their chromosomes for division in modern humans than in Neanderthals. This results in fewer errors when chromosomes are distributed to the daughter cells in modern humans than in Neanderthals or chimpanzees, and could have consequences for how the brain develops and functions. This study shows cellular differences in the development of the brain between modern humans and Neanderthals.