Our brain's cognitive performance arises from the coordinated activities of billions of nerve cells. Despite a high degree of morphological and functional differences, all neurons of the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS) arise from a common field of multipotent progenitors. Cell fate specification and differentiation are directed by multistep processes that include inductive/external cues, such as the extracellular matrix or growth factors, and cell-intrinsic determinants, such as transcription factors and epigenetic modulators of proteins and DNA. Here we review recent findings implicating TALE-homeodomain proteins in these processes. Although originally identified as HOX-cofactors, TALE proteins also contribute to many physiological processes that do not require HOX-activity. Particular focus is, therefore, given to HOX-dependent and -independent functions of TALE proteins during early vertebrate brain development. Additionally, we provide an overview about known upstream and downstream factors of TALE proteins in the developing vertebrate brain and discuss general concepts of how TALE proteins function to modulate neuronal cell fate specification. Developmental Dynamics 243:99–116, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.