Fluctuating cognition (FC) is a common and important symptom in dementia, particularly dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), although it has not been empirically quantified or characterised. Forty subjects (15 DLB, 15 AD, 10 elderly controls) were evaluated using a clinical FC severity scale, as well as receiving measures of variability in attentional performance and slow EEG rhythms across 90 s, 1 h and 1 week. DLB patients had significantly more severe FC and more severe variability in attentional and slow electrocortical measures than either AD patients or normal controls in all time frames. Attentional and EEG variability also correlated significantly with independent clinical ratings of FC. Clinical quantification and measures of attention and EEG variability can therefore make an important and standardised contribution to the assessment of FC in dementia, facilitating future treatment studies with important implications for the potential causative mechanisms and differential diagnosis. Copyright (C) 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.