We introduce an agent-based model to simulate brain evolution in a ‘bare-bones’ system and examine dependencies between variables shaping brain evolution. We show that ‘concerted’ patterns of brain evolution do not, in themselves, provide evidence for developmental coupling, despite these terms often being treated as synonymous in the literature. Instead, concerted evolution can reflect either functional or developmental integration. Our model further allows us to clarify conditions under which such developmental coupling, or uncoupling, is potentially adaptive, revealing support for the maintenance of both mechanisms in neural evolution. Critically, we illustrate how the probability of deviation from concerted evolution depends on the cost/benefit ratio of neural tissue, which increases when overall brain size is itself under constraint.