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Glycosylation, the enzymatic process by which glycans are attached to proteins and lipids, is the most abundant and functionally important type of post-translational modification associated with brain development, neurodegenerative disorders, psychopathologies and brain cancers. Glycan structures are diverse and complex; however, they have been detected and targeted in the central nervous system (CNS) by various immunohistochemical detection methods using glycan-binding proteins such as anti-glycan antibodies or lectins and/or characterized with analytical techniques such as chromatography and mass spectrometry. The glycan structures on glycoproteins and glycolipids expressed in neural stem cells play key roles in neural development, biological processes and CNS maintenance, such as cell adhesion, signal transduction, molecular trafficking and differentiation. This brief review will highlight some of the important findings on differential glycan expression across stages of CNS cell differentiation and in pathological disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, schizophrenia and brain cancer.