Cortical columns are basic cellular and functional units of the cerebral cortex that are malformed in many brain disorders, but how they initially develop is not well understood. Using an optogenetic sensor in the mouse embryonic forebrain, we demonstrate that Ca(2+) fluxes propagate bidirectionally within the elongated fibers of radial glial cells (RGCs), providing a novel communication mechanism linking the proliferative and postmitotic zones before the onset of synaptogenesis. Our results indicate that Ca(2+) activity along RGC fibers provides feedback information along the radial migratory pathway, influencing neurogenesis and migration during early column development. Furthermore, we find that this columnar Ca(2+) propagation is induced by Notch and fibroblast growth factor activities classically implicated in cortical expansion and patterning. Thus, cortical morphogens and growth factors may influence cortical column assembly in part by regulating long-distance Ca(2+) communication along the radial axis of cortical development.