Polysialylated neurons, located at the inner border of the dentate granule cell layer, have been demonstrated to exhibit time-dependent change in their frequency at 10-12 h following training in the Morris water maze, a spatial learning paradigm. Such a change was not observed in animals required to locate a visible platform or in those rendered amnesic with scopolamine. This frequency response was capable of rapid reactivation following further training stimuli in a manner that was independent of circadian influence. These learning-associated modulations in neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) polysialylation state did not increase in magnitude despite improved performance, suggesting their activation is required for processing information rather than contributing to previously stored, task-associated memory. An increase in NCAM polysialylation appears to be a universal learning response to both spatial and nonspatial paradigms as similar time-dependent changes occurred following training in a one-trial, step-through, passive avoidance response subsequent to water maze training.