The NIMH Research Domain Criteria Initiative: Background, Issues, and Pragmatics

Psychophysiology. 2016 Mar;53(3):286-97. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12518.


This article describes the National Institute of Mental Health's Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative. The description includes background, rationale, goals, and the way the initiative has been developed and organized. The central RDoC concepts are summarized and the current matrix of constructs that have been vetted by workshops of extramural scientists is depicted. A number of theoretical and methodological issues that can arise in connection with the nature of RDoC constructs are highlighted: subjectivism and heterophenomenology, desynchrony and theoretical neutrality among units of analysis, theoretical reductionism, endophenotypes, biomarkers, neural circuits, construct "grain size," and analytic challenges. The importance of linking RDoC constructs to psychiatric clinical problems is discussed. Some pragmatics of incorporating RDoC concepts into applications for NIMH research funding are considered, including sampling design.

Keywords: Biometrics; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual; Hypothetical constructs; National Institute of Mental Health; Psychometrics; Psychopathology; Research Domain Criteria.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)*
  • Psychopathology / methods*
  • United States