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Temporal patterning is a seminal method of expanding neuronal diversity. Here we unravel a mechanism decoding neural stem cell temporal gene expression and transforming it into discrete neuronal fates. This mechanism is characterized by hierarchical gene expression. First, neuroblasts express opposing temporal gradients of RNA-binding proteins, Imp and Syp. These proteins promote or inhibit translation, yielding a descending neuronal gradient. Together, first and second-layer temporal factors define a temporal expression window of BTB-zinc finger nuclear protein, Mamo. The precise temporal induction of Mamo is achieved via both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation. Finally, Mamo is essential for the temporally defined, terminal identity of α'/β' mushroom body neurons and identity maintenance. We describe a straightforward paradigm of temporal fate specification where diverse neuronal fates are defined via integrating multiple layers of gene regulation. The neurodevelopmental roles of orthologous/related mammalian genes suggest a fundamental conservation of this mechanism in brain development.