Repetitive stimuli reliably induce long-term potentiation (LTP) of synapses in the upper layers of the granular somatosensory cortex but not the agranular motor cortex of rats. Herein we examine, in these same cortical areas, short-term changes in synaptic strength that occur during the LTP induction period. theta-Burst stimulation produced a strong short-term enhancement of synapses in the granular area but only weak enhancement in the agranular area. The magnitude of enhancement during stimulation was strongly correlated with the magnitude of LTP subsequently expressed. Short-term enhancement was abolished by an antagonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors but remained in the presence of a non-NMDA receptor antagonist. Inhibitory postsynaptic potentials of the granular and agranular areas displayed similar frequency sensitivity, but the frequency sensitivity of NMDA receptor-dependent excitatory postsynaptic potentials differed significantly between areas. We propose that pathway-specific differences in short-term enhancement are due to variations in the frequency dependence of NMDA currents; different capacities for short-term enhancement may explain why repetitive stimulation more readily induces LTP in the somatosensory cortex than in the motor cortex.