Benton visual retention test: characteristics and method of use

Neuropsychological tests allow us to assess people to determine cognitive status and other higher functions.

The Benton Visual Retention Test is a test used to determine if the patient has impaired visual perception and memory, as well as other motor skills that involve copying and reproducing shapes and designs.

Below we explain in more detail what it is and how the Benton visual retention test assesses, What are its main characteristics, its mode of application and correction, and the uses given to it in clinical practice.

    What is the Benton visual retention test and what does it assess?

    The Benton visual retention test is a neuropsychological test originally developed by A EL Benton and designed to assess cognitive impairment in three main areas: visual perception, visual memory and visoconstructive skills.

    Visual perception is a concept that involves the interpretation that our brain makes of the different stimuli received by the sense of sight. This perception encompasses a whole set of processes by which the person organizes, selects and interprets, in a meaningful way and through his or her previous experience, visual information. It is an active process in which information is not only captured, but it is also transformed and gives it meaning and consistency.

    As for visual memory, it makes it possible to identify a stimulus, to examine it and to attribute a meaning to it. This type of memory involves a process of perception, coding, storage and retrieval of stored knowledge and representations resulting from cognitive processing. Visual memory uses information to assess, compare and locate objects, places and people, building a mental image.

    For its part, visoconstructive skills refer to the ability we have to plan and execute movements necessary to organize a series of elements in space and to form designs and structures in two or three dimensions.


      Benton’s visual retention test has demonstrated its sensitivity to literacy problems, nonverbal learning problems, traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

      This test has been validated as effective in assessing difficulties in perceiving spatial relationships and remembering newly acquired visual stimuli, as well as in diagnosing brain damage in children and adults.

      Studies confirm that the test is reliable and that a correlation is established between the different forms of the test, although there is some evidence that administration of A form C appears to be slightly simpler than forms D and E .

      The validity of the Benton visual retention test has also been confirmed, By using other neuropsychological tests, such as the King Complex Figure Test or the WAIS Cube Test, and also by comparison between various groups of patients (with cognitive impairment and cognitive impairment) and healthy subjects.

      However, this neuropsychological test does not appear to have specific sensitivity to lesions of the hippocampus of the right hemisphere, unlike other tests such as the Warrington Face Memory Test or the Wechsler Face Memory Subtest (WSM-III).

      Mode of application and interpretation

      The Benton visual retention test has 3 alternative forms (C, D and E), and at the same time equivalent, which can be administered under different conditions. During the test, the patient receives 10 cards (Most contain 3 digits, two large and one small) for several seconds, with unique patterns in each.

      Once the time for each administration has elapsed, the person is invited to immediately reproduce the design of each card (in a visual memory exercise).

      In the second phase, you are asked to copy each of the 10 card designs, With the maps in view. The results of each task are evaluated and transcribed into six categories: omissions, distortions, conservations, rotations, losses and size errors.

      The final score goes from 0, if a lot of mistakes are made, to 10, if everything is correct. The test should be corrected taking into account the patient’s age and IQ.

      The four are detailed below possible types of test administration:

      • Exposure for 10 seconds and immediate playback of the disc.
      • Exposure for 5 seconds and immediate playback of the disc.
      • Copy of drawings (without time limit). For seniors with advanced cognitive impairment.
      • Exposure for 10 seconds and delayed playback of the disc (at 15 seconds).

      Clinical uses of the test

      The Benton visual retention test is susceptible to cognitive impairment, brain damage, and various mental illnesses, although it is difficult to diagnose a particular disorder using this test.

      In terms of test results, it was shown that a large number of perseverances could suggest damage to the frontal lobe, while many omissions in peripheral designs would suggest possible brain trauma, especially in the right parietal lobe.

      On the other hand, the overall performance of the test he does not seem to distinguish between people with unilateral lesions in the left or right hemisphere. However, it appears that clinicians are able to distinguish between motor, perceptual, or memory disorders, based on analysis of test results.

      Diseases that have been shown to significantly reduce an individual’s test score are: dementias, brain damage, thalamic stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

      The copy and booster versions appear to be particularly sensitive to detecting dementias and could help identify those at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future. Likewise, the test was also able to detect children with learning difficulties.

      Finally, it should be noted that the Benton Visual Retention Test was one of the tests included in the NCTB battery of the World Health Organization more than 30 years ago, with the aim of being able to identify the effects caused by the chemical exposure to the human nervous system; since then it has continued to be used to assess this exposure in the workplace, showing a high sensitivity to various chemical components, such as mercury, lead or pesticides.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Benton, AL, Abigail, B., Sivan, AB, Hamsher, KD, Varney, NR and Spreen, O. (1994). Contributions to neuropsychological assessment: clinical manual. Oxford University Press, United States.
      • Benton, AL, Varney, NR and Hamsher, KS (1978). Visuospatial judgment: a clinician
      • test. Archives of Neurology, 25, 364-367.
      • Vidal, JLB and Camps, ER (2009). Benton’s visual retention test in adult brain injury. Cahiers de psychologie, (18), 19-35

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