Neural stem and progenitor cells undergo an important transition from proliferation to differentiation in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. The mechanisms coordinating this transition are incompletely understood. Cyclin D proteins promote proliferation in G1 and typically are down-regulated before differentiation. Here we show that motoneuron progenitors in the embryonic spinal cord persistently express Cyclin D1 during the initial phase of differentiation, while down-regulating Cyclin D2. Loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments indicate that Cyclin D1 (but not D2) promotes neurogenesis in vivo, a role that can be dissociated from its cell cycle function. Moreover, reexpression of Cyclin D1 can restore neurogenic capacity to D2-expressing glial-restricted progenitors. The neurogenic function of Cyclin D1 appears to be mediated, directly or indirectly, by Hes6, a proneurogenic basic helic-loop-helix transcription factor. These data identify a cell cycle-independent function for Cyclin D1 in promoting neuronal differentiation, along with a potential genetic pathway through which this function is exerted.