Twenty-six patients suffering from DSM-III-R major depressive episode with diurnal variation of mood were examined at approximately 8 AM and 8 PM, using a neuropsychological test battery. We found that tests of executive function, especially the verbal fluency test, were sensitive measures of diurnal variation, but that personality measures were relatively robust in that they were not significantly affected by diurnal variations of mood. The relevance of detecting and assessing diurnal changes of mood with reliable, objective measures of performance is discussed.