Anterior patterning of animals is based on a set of highly conserved transcription factors but the interactions within the protostome anterior gene regulatory network (aGRN) remain enigmatic. Here, we identify the foxQ2 ortholog of the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum as novel upstream component of the insect aGRN. It is required for the development of the labrum and higher order brain structures, namely the central complex and the mushroom bodies. We reveal Tc-foxQ2 interactions by RNAi and heat shock-mediated misexpression. Surprisingly, Tc-foxQ2 and Tc-six3 mutually activate each other forming a novel regulatory module at the top of the insect aGRN. Comparisons of our results with those of sea urchins and cnidarians suggest that foxQ2 has acquired functions in head and brain patterning during protostome evolution. Our findings expand the knowledge on foxQ2 gene function to include essential roles in epidermal development and central brain patterning.