Many synapses in the mature CNS are wrapped by a dense extracellular matrix (ECM). Using single-particle tracking and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, we found that this net-like ECM formed surface compartments on rat primary neurons that acted as lateral diffusion barriers for AMPA-type glutamate receptors. Enzymatic removal of the ECM increased extrasynaptic receptor diffusion and the exchange of synaptic AMPA receptors. Whole-cell patch-clamp recording revealed an increased paired-pulse ratio as a functional consequence of ECM removal. These results suggest that the surface compartments formed by the ECM hinder lateral diffusion of AMPA receptors and may therefore modulate short-term synaptic plasticity.