Cerebral organoids are stem cell-derived, self-organizing three-dimensional cultures. Owing to the remarkable degree to which they recreate the cellular diversity observed in the human brain, they have attracted significant interest as a novel model system for research and drug development, as well as capturing the public imagination. However, many questions remain about the extent to which these cultures recapitulate neurodevelopment and the defining features of the human brain. To clarify the fidelity of human organoid models, Bhaduri and colleagues compared the molecular profile of brain organoid cells with that of primary cells from fetal brain. They observed that, whilst brain organoids broadly recapitulate the cellular profile of human brain, they lack the subtypes of cell classes seen in human brain. In addition, they showed marked expression of cellular stress markers, which could be reversed by transplanting organoid cells into neonatal mouse brain. The authors hypothesise that in vitro culture induces a cellular stress response and that it is this that impairs maturation. Thus, whilst their findings strike a note of caution in the use of organoids as a model for early human brain development, they lay a foundation for improving the accuracy of organoid models in the future.