January 14, 2011
Dimensional Approaches to Research Classification
NAMHC Concept Clearance
Linda Brady, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS)
The purpose of this initiative is to support translational grants that investigate mechanisms of mental disorders through classification of patient participants employing circuit-based dimensions of functioning rather than traditional disorder categories.
This initiative is designed to foster studies of pathophysiology and psychopathology consistent with the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) approach to classification on the basis of dimensionally defined constructs. The initiative would support R01 awards for projects with clinical populations that are designed to explicate specified dimensions of functioning that cut across traditional diagnostic categories, using multiple levels of analysis. In contrast to typical clinical studies, the independent variable might be selected from any level of analysis (e.g., genetic, functional neuroimaging, responses to behavioral tests), and dependent variables from one or more other levels of analysis. The goal of the research projects is to study how measurements in different systems interrelate in defining a given functional dimension, and to examine functional outcomes and symptoms of behavior and neurobiology. Applications could be submitted using either adult, or child/adolescent clinical populations, and the latter will be encouraged. This initiative will be directed toward the RDoC specifications that have been established to date: working memory and dimensions involving aversive motivational constructs such as fear, distress, and aggression/anger. The initiative is expected to generate substantive research on cross-cutting mechanisms related to disorders that involve these constructs, and will also serve to catalyze interest in NIMH’s new approach to classification.