Excitatory synapses in the CNS release glutamate, which acts primarily on two sides of ionotropic receptors: AMPA receptors and NMDA receptors. AMPA receptors mediate the postsynaptic depolarization that initiates neuronal firing, whereas NMDA receptors initiate synaptic plasticity. Recent studies have emphasized that distinct mechanisms control synaptic expression of these two receptor classes. Whereas NMDA receptor proteins are relatively fixed, AMPA receptors cycle synaptic membranes on and off. A large family of interacting proteins regulates AMPA receptor turnover at synapses and thereby influences synaptic strength. Furthermore, neuronal activity controls synaptic AMPA receptor trafficking, and this dynamic process plays a key role in the synaptic plasticity that is thought to underlie aspects of learning and memory.