MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenously expressed small, non-coding nucleotides that repress gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. In mammals, the developing brain contains a large, diverse group of miRNAs, which suggests that they play crucial roles in neural development. In the present study, we analyzed the miRNA expression patterns in the mouse cortex at various developmental stages. We found that miR-17 family miRNAs were highly expressed in the cortex during early developmental stages, and that their expression levels gradually decreased as the cortex developed. Further investigation revealed that the change in miR-17-5p expression occurred in the ventricular zone/sub-ventricular zone. In addition to promoting cell proliferation, miR-17-5p also influences the differentiation fate of neural precursor cells exposed to bone morphogenetic protein 2. Moreover, we show that these effects of miR-17-5p were mainly the result of regulating the bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathway by repressing expression of the bone morphogenetic protein type II receptor. Taken together, these findings suggest that miR-17 family members play a pivotal role in regulating cell activity during early development of the mouse cortex.