Background Technical skills training in neurosurgery is mostly done in the operating room. New educational paradigms are encouraging the development of novel training methods for surgical skills. Simulation could answer some of these needs. This article presents the development of a conceptual training framework for use on a virtual reality neurosurgical simulator. Methods Appropriate tasks were identified by reviewing neurosurgical oncology curricula requirements and performing cognitive task analyses of basic techniques and representative surgeries. The tasks were then elaborated into training modules by including learning objectives, instructions, levels of difficulty, and performance metrics. Surveys and interviews were iteratively conducted with subject matter experts to delimitate, review, discuss, and approve each of the development stages. Results Five tasks were selected as representative of basic and advanced neurosurgical skill. These tasks were: 1) ventriculostomy, 2) endoscopic nasal navigation, 3) tumor debulking, 4) hemostasis, and 5) microdissection. The complete training modules were structured into easy, intermediate, and advanced settings. Performance metrics were also integrated to provide feedback on outcome, efficiency, and errors. The subject matter experts deemed the proposed modules as pertinent and useful for neurosurgical skills training. Conclusions The conceptual framework presented here, the Fundamentals of Neurosurgery, represents a first attempt to develop standardized training modules for technical skills acquisition in neurosurgical oncology. The National Research Council Canada is currently developing NeuroTouch, a virtual reality simulator for cranial microneurosurgery. The simulator presently includes the five Fundamentals of Neurosurgery modules at varying stages of completion. A first pilot study has shown that neurosurgical residents obtained higher performance scores on the simulator than medical students. Further work will validate its components and use in a training curriculum.