We applied single-molecule fluorescence microscopy (using organic dyes or semiconductor quantum dots) to study the lateral diffusion of glutamate receptors (AMPA and NMDA) in live synapses. We directly imaged glutamate receptors movements inside and outside synapses of live cultured hippocampal neurons. We could record exchanges of receptors through lateral diffusion between these different membrane compartments. In addition, our data suggest that this lateral diffusion might be regulated by neuronal activity. To overcome the photobleaching problem inherent to fluorescence techniques we recently developed new optical methods for the detection of individual metallic nanoparticles. We can now detect signatures of diffusing AMPA receptors labeled with 10 nm gold nanoparticles on live neurons.