Approaches to Defining Common and Dissociable Neurobiological Deficits Associated With Psychopathology in Youth

Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 1;88(1):51-62. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.12.015. Epub 2019 Dec 23.


Psychiatric disorders show high rates of comorbidity and nonspecificity of presenting clinical symptoms, while demonstrating substantial heterogeneity within diagnostic categories. Notably, many of these psychiatric disorders first manifest in youth. We review progress and next steps in efforts to parse heterogeneity in psychiatric symptoms in youths by identifying abnormalities within neural circuits. To address this fundamental challenge in psychiatry, a number of methods have been proposed. We provide an overview of these methods, broadly organized into dimensional versus categorical approaches and single-view versus multiview approaches. Dimensional approaches including factor analysis and canonical correlation analysis aim to capture dimensional associations between psychopathology and brain measures across a continuous spectrum from health to disease. In contrast, categorical approaches, such as clustering and community detection, aim to identify subtypes of individuals within a class of symptoms or brain features. We highlight several studies that apply these methods to samples of youths and discuss issues to consider when using these approaches. Finally, we end by highlighting avenues for future research.

Keywords: Adolescents; Heterogeneity; Imaging; Neurobiology; Psychopathology; Youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychopathology