The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC), an initiative by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), aims to reframe mental health research. The initiative supports research that cuts across traditional diagnostic categories to identify relationships among observable behavior, neurobiological measures, and patient self-report of mental status.
RDoC is not a diagnostic tool akin to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. RDoC arose out of concerns that basing clinical research on symptom-based categories may be hampering attempts to understand the etiology and mechanisms of mental-health disorders. It offers an alternative approach to conceptualizing research questions on psychopathology as informed by modern behavioral neuroscience. The concept is to base the research upon normal behavior/cognitive functions (such as fear, reward, or cognitive control) and consider specific symptoms in terms of dysregulation in these basic systems.
The RDoC framework accordingly organizes research investigating mental health into five main functional domains (negative valence systems, positive valence systems, cognitive systems, social processes, and arousal and regulatory systems), each of which includes various constructs and subconstructs. One or more constructs can be studied across seven units of analysis (e.g., molecules, circuits, behavior) with the goal of increasing understanding of the processes underlying mental illness.
- Visit the RDoC website to learn more.
- Read the Psychological Science in the Public Interest report on the other mental disorder classification systems.
- Read APS Observer articles on RDoC:
- View the RDoC YouTube channel.
- Find out about RDoC funding opportunities.
Below is a list of selected articles in the scientific literature on RDoC.
Carcone, D., & Ruocco, A. C. (2017). Six years of research on the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Initiative: A systematic review. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2017.00046
Doherty, J. L., & Owen, M. J. (2014). The Research Domain Criteria: Moving the goalposts to change the game. British Journal of Psychiatry, 204, 171-173. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.113.133330
Elvevåg, B., Cohen, A. S., Wolters, M. K., Whalley, H. C., Gountouna, V. E., Kuznetsova, K. A., … & Nicodemus, K. K. (2016). An examination of the language construct in NIMH’s research domain criteria: Time for reconceptualization! American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 171(6), 904-919. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajmg.b.32438
Kelly, J. R., Clarke, G., Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2017). Dimensional thinking in psychiatry in the era of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2017.7
Shankman, S. A., & Gorka, S. M. (2015). Psychopathology research in the RDoC era: Unanswered questions and the importance of the psychophysiological unit of analysis. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 98(2), 330-337. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.01.001
Shepard, P. D. (2014). Basic science, RDoC, and Schizophrenia Bulletin. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 40(4), 717–718. https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fschbul%2Fsbu077
Yee, C. M., Javitt, D. C., & Miller, G. A. (2015). Replacing DSM categorical analyses with dimensional analyses in psychiatry research: The Research Domain Criteria Initiative. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(12), 1159-1160. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1900
Selected NIMH-authored Papers
Cuthbert, B. N. (2015). Research Domain Criteria: Toward future psychiatric nosologies. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 17(1), 89.
Kozak, M. J., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2016). The NIMH Research Domain Criteria Initiative: Background, issues, and pragmatics. Psychophysiology, 53(3), 286-297. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12518
Selected Papers on Computational Approaches to Psychopathology
Holroyd, C. B., & Umemoto, A. (2016). The Research Domain Criteria framework: The case for anterior cingulate cortex. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 418-443. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.021
Huys, Q. J., Maia, T. V., & Frank, M. J. (2016). Computational psychiatry as a bridge from neuroscience to clinical applications. Nature Neuroscience, 19(3), 404-413. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4238
Van Dam, N. T., O’Connor, D., Marcelle, E. T., Ho, E. J., Craddock, R. C., Tobe, R. H., … & Milham, M. P. (2017). Data-driven phenotypic categorization for neurobiological analyses: Beyond DSM-5 labels. Biological Psychiatry, 81(6), 484-494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.06.027
Wiecki, T. V., Poland, J., & Frank, M. J. (2015). Model-based cognitive neuroscience approaches to computational psychiatry: clustering and classification. Clinical Psychological Science, 3, 378-399, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2167702614565359.
Selected Papers on Translational Research, Developmental Emphasis
Luking, K. R., Pagliaccio, D., Luby, J. L., & Barch, D. M. (2016). Reward processing and risk for depression across development. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(6), 456-468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2016.04.002
Solomon, M., & Di Martino, A. (2017). Increasing traction for discovery: The Research Domain Criteria framework and neurodevelopmental disorders. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 2(6), 458-460. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.06.027
Sukhodolsky, D. G., Wyk, B. C. V., Eilbott, J. A., McCauley, S. A., Ibrahim, K., Crowley, M. J., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2016). Neural mechanisms of cognitive-behavioral therapy for aggression in children and adolescents: Design of a randomized controlled trial within the National Institute for Mental Health Research Domain Criteria construct of frustrative non-reward. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 26(1), 38-48. https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2015.0164
Weinberg, A., Meyer, A., Hale‐Rude, E., Perlman, G., Kotov, R., Klein, D. N., & Hajcak, G. (2016). Error‐related negativity (ERN) and sustained threat: Conceptual framework and empirical evaluation in an adolescent sample. Psychophysiology, 53(3), 372-385. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12538
Selected Papers on Translational Research, Adult Emphasis
Ford, J. M. (2016). Studying auditory verbal hallucinations using the RDoC framework. Psychophysiology, 53(3), 298-304. https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12457
Jauhar, S., Nour, M. M., Veronese, M., Rogdaki, M., Bonoldi, I., Azis, M., … & Howes, O. D. (2017). A test of the transdiagnostic dopamine hypothesis of psychosis using positron emission tomographic imaging in bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia. JAMA Psychiatry, 74(12), 1206-1213. http://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.2943
Marquand, A. F., Rezek, I., Buitelaar, J., & Beckmann, C. F. (2016). Understanding heterogeneity in clinical cohorts using normative models: beyond case-control studies. Biological Psychiatry, 80(7), 552-561, http://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.12.023
McTeague, L. M., Huemer, J., Carreon, D. M., Jiang, Y., Eickhoff, S. B., & Etkin, A. (2017). Identification of common neural circuit disruptions in cognitive control across psychiatric disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 174(7), 676-685. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16040400
Yager, J., & Feinstein, R. E. (2017). Potential applications of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) to clinical psychiatric practice: How RDoC might be used in assessment, diagnostic processes, case formulation, treatment planning, and clinical notes. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 78(4), 423-432. https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.15nr10476
Selected Papers on Philosophy of Science
Aragona, M. (2014). Epistemological reflections about the crisis of the DSM-5 and the revolutionary potential of the RDoC project. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 7(1), 11-20.
Bluhm, R. (2017). The need for new ontologies in psychiatry. Philosophical Explorations, 20, 146-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/13869795.2017.1312498
Hoffman, G. A., & Zacher, P. (2017). RDoC’s metaphysical assumptions: Problems and promises. In J. Poland & S. Tekin (Eds.), Extraordinary science and psychiatry: Responses to the crisis in mental health research. Cambridge: MIT Press. (pp. 59-86).
Miller, G. A. (2010). Mistreating psychology in the decades of the brain. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(5), 716-743. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691610388774
Murphy, D. (2017). Can psychiatry refurnish the mind? Philosophical Explorations, 20, 160-174. https://doi.org/10.1080/13869795.2017.1312499
Pouncey, C. (2017). Psychopathology without nosology: The Research Domain Criteria project as normal science. In J. Poland & S. Tekin (Eds.), Extraordinary science and psychiatry: Responses to the crisis in mental health research. Cambridge: MIT Press. (pp. 87-104).
Sullivan, J. A. (2016). Stabilizing constructs through collaboration across different research fields as a way to foster the integrative approach of the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Project. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00309