An essential feature in the modulation of the efficacy of synaptic transmission is rapid changes in the number of AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid) receptors at post-synaptic sites on neurons. Regulation of receptor endo- and exocytosis has been shown to be involved in this process. Whether regulated lateral diffusion of receptors in the plasma membrane also participates in receptor exchange to and from post-synaptic sites remains unknown. We analysed the lateral mobility of native AMPA receptors containing the glutamate receptor subunit GluR2 in rat cultured hippocampal neurons, using single-particle tracking and video microscopy. Here we show that AMPA receptors alternate within seconds between rapid diffusive and stationary behaviour. During maturation of neurons, stationary periods increase in frequency and length, often in spatial correlation with synaptic sites. Raising intracellular calcium, a central element in synaptic plasticity, triggers rapid receptor immobilization and local accumulation on the neuronal surface. We suggest that calcium influx prevents AMPA receptors from diffusing, and that lateral receptor diffusion to and from synaptic sites acts in the rapid and controlled regulation of receptor numbers at synapses.