Engaging Research Domain Criteria (RDoC): Neurocircuitry in Search of Meaning

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The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative was implemented to reorient the approach to mental health research from one focused on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) nosology to one oriented to psychological constructs constrained by neurocircuitry and molecular entities. The initiative has generated significant discussion and valuable reflection on the moorings of psychiatric research. The purpose of this article is to illustrate how a basic or clinical investigator can engage RDoC to explore the neurobiological underpinnings of psychopathology and how a research question can be formulated in RDoC’s framework. We utilize a brain region with significant growing interest, the habenula, as an example for probing RDoC’s utility. Opportunities to enhance neurocircuitry-psychological construct associations and problems associated with neuronal populations that enable bidirectional circuitry influence are discussed. The exercise reveals areas for further development that could move RDoC from a promising research idea to a successfully engaged foundation for catalyzing clinically relevant discoveries.

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