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Spectral analysis of EEG was conducted for 51 elderly delirious patients meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (DSM-III) criteria and for 19 controls. As a whole group, and also when subdivided according to the type of delirium, severity of cognitive decline or the type of central nervous system disease, delirious patients showed significant reductions of alpha percentage, increased theta and delta activity and slowing of the peak and mean frequencies and these changes were also obvious in individual recordings. The alpha percentage and various ratio parameters correlated significantly with Mini Mental State score, and delta percentage and mean frequency with the lengths of delirium and hospitalisation. The results indicate an association between spectral EEG changes and severity of cognitive deterioration in delirium.