NIMH moves forward with project to transform clinical research

The institute’s new Research Domain Category Project will develop new ways of classifying mental disorders to provide flexibility for researchers studying comorbid populations

At the September 24 meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, Bruce Cuthbert, Director of NIMH’s Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR) explained the institute’s new Research Domain Category (RDoC) Project. As mentioned in July’s Monitor article on RDoC, the initial goal of the project is to develop new ways of classifying mental disorders to improve clinical research and provide flexibility for researchers studying comorbid populations or mechanisms that are common across current diagnostic categories.

According to the report, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) has not incorporated the latest findings in genetics or behavioral neuroscience and does not provide for the diagnosis of possible subtypes of mental disorders, based on biological or genetic factors. While the science is not yet well enough developed to permit neuroscience-based classification, NIMH is hoping RDoC will advance the field so that discoveries in genomics, pathophysiology, and behavioral science can inform diagnosis in a meaningful way. Cuthbert reiterated that RDoC is not designed for clinical use, but is intended as a framework to guide classification of patients for research studies. NIMH is reaching out to the broader scientific community for comment and plans to survey scientists in the field, hold workshops around the five identified domains (which include: 1) negative affect; 2) positive affect; 3) cognition; 4) social phobias; and 5) arousal/regulatory processes), and solicit public comment on the RDoC initiative through an upcoming Request for Information.