The current model to explain the organization of the mammalian nervous system is based on studies of anatomy, embryology, and evolution. To further investigate the molecular organization of the adult mammalian brain, we have built a gene expression-based brain map. We measured gene expression patterns for 24 neural tissues covering the mouse central nervous system and found, surprisingly, that the adult brain bears a transcriptional "imprint" consistent with both embryological origins and classic evolutionary relationships. Embryonic cellular position along the anterior-posterior axis of the neural tube was shown to be closely associated with, and possibly a determinant of, the gene expression patterns in adult structures. We also observed a significant number of embryonic patterning and homeobox genes with region-specific expression in the adult nervous system. The relationships between global expression patterns for different anatomical regions and the nature of the observed region-specific genes suggest that the adult brain retains a degree of overall gene expression established during embryogenesis that is important for regional specificity and the functional relationships between regions in the adult. The complete collection of extensively annotated gene expression data along with data mining and visualization tools have been made available on a publicly accessible web site (www.barlow-lockhart-brainmapnimhgrant.org).