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Research Domain Criteria (RDoC)

The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project implements Strategy 1.4 of the 2008 NIMH Strategic Plan: “Develop, for research purposes, new ways of classifying mental disorders based on behavioral dimensions and neurobiological measures.” RDoC attempts to bring the power of modern research approaches in genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science to the problems of mental illness, studied independently from the classification systems by which patients are currently grouped.

The approach provides a framework to develop hypotheses and evaluate results from studies that investigate the mechanisms of psychopathology. The heart of RDoC is a matrix of functional dimensions, grouped into broad domains such as cognition and reward-related systems, examined across units of analysis ranging from genetics and circuit activity to psychology and behavior. Emphasis is placed upon the developmental trajectories through which these functions evolve over time, and the interaction of neurodevelopment with the environment. RDoC research starts with basic mechanisms and studies dysfunctions in these systems as a way to understand homogeneous symptom sets that cut across multiple disorders, rather than starting with clinical symptoms and working backwards.

We have established a multi-study database (RDoCdb ) with subject-level data from RDoC research so that accumulating knowledge can be further investigated to identify trans-diagnostic mechanisms. The RDoC Discussion Forum invites input from the scientific community. We expect that the efforts of all involved in RDoC will encourage new ways to think about diagnosis and yield novel treatments and preventions.

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