Brief high-frequency trains delivered to the monosynaptic entorhinal cortical input to the dentate gyrus result in both increases and decreases of synaptic strength as a function of whether a particular afferent is active during conditioning (associative potentiation/depression). The present report concerns the effect of such brief, high-frequency conditioning trains upon the asymmetric synapses of the rat dentate gyrus molecular layer. Only those animals whose responses increased at least 50% following conditioning stimulation were included in the study. Additional animals were used for one-dimensional current source density analyses to localize the activated synaptic region. Double blind scoring procedures were used to classify and quantify electron micrographic data. Asymmetric synapses were scored as a function of their position in the molecular layer, spine head size and shape, and postsynaptic density length. All data were treated as inherently matched comparisons between the conditioned and control sides of each animal. The number of large, concave spine synapses with large postsynaptic densities significantly increases in the central zone of synaptic activation. Bordering this zone are regions with increases in synaptic number following conditioning, primarily due to an increased number of small spine synapses. The increased number of large, concave spine synapses in the central zone is postulated to mediate associative potentiation. The many small spine heads just adjacent to the zone of strongest synaptic activation may reflect synaptic depression evoked at synapses inactive during conditioning.