Background: Drawing tests have a long history in neuropsychological assessment. A popular geometric figure has been the two intersecting pentagons from the Bender Gestalt test. Reproducing the pentagons is the main visuospatial task on the original Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), remaining in use in revised versions of that widely used screening test. Scoring criteria on the MMSE are binary: perfect reproduction of the figure is required, while the Modified MMSE of Teng and Chui (1987) uses a more refined ten-point scoring for the elements of the figure.
Methods: Here, I report on the use of pentagon drawing from 8,702 older community-dwelling Canadians (59.3% female), with a mean age of 75.5 years (SD = 6.99) and 10.1 years of education (SD = 3.89). Mean scores for the whole sample are reported, as well as for subsamples who underwent a full clinical assessment and were diagnosed as cognitively intact, with dementia, or cognitively impaired, but without dementia. Logistic regression was used to evaluate the utility of pentagon drawing as a diagnostic tool to diagnose cognitive impairment.
Results: Binary scoring was less effective in discriminating groups than the ten-point system and showed weaker properties by other criteria.
Conclusions: The discussion focuses on the role of simple, non-verbal tasks in the cognitive screening of older adults.