Current diagnostic systems for mental disorders were established before the tools of neuroscience were available, and although they have improved the reliability of psychiatric classification, progress toward the discovery of disease etiologies and novel approaches to treatment and prevention may benefit from alternative conceptualizations of mental disorders. The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative is the centerpiece of NIMH's effort to achieve its strategic goal of developing new methods to classify mental disorders for research purposes. The RDoC matrix provides a research framework that encourages investigators to reorient their research perspective by taking a dimensional approach to the study of the genetic, neural, and behavioral features of mental disorders, RDoCs integrative approach includes cognition along with social processes, arousal/regulatory systems, and negative and positive valence systems as the major domains, because these neurobehavioral systems have all evolved to serve the motivational and adaptive needs of the organism. With its focus on neural circuits informed by the growing evidence of the neurodevelopmental nature of many disorders and its capacity to capture the patterns of co-occurrence of behaviors and symptoms, the RDoC approach holds promise to advance our understanding of the nature of mental disorders.
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