The transcriptional coactivater and tyrosine phosphatase eyes absent (eya) is vital for eye development in Drosophila. We identified a vertebrate member of the Eya family, Xeya3, which is expressed in the anterior neural plate, including the eye field. Overexpression of wild-type Xeya3 or of a phosphatase-negative version of Xeya3 creates massive enlargements of brain and retinal tissues, mainly caused by overproliferation of neural precursor cells. On the other hand, suppression of Xeya3 function induces local apoptosis within the sensorial layer of the anterior neuroectoderm. Thus, Xeya3 is key factor for the formation and size control of brain and eyes in vertebrates.