Psychopathology research in the RDoC era: Unanswered questions and the importance of the psychophysiological unit of analysis

Stewart A Shankman*, Stephanie M. Gorka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative seeks to re-conceptualize psychopathology by identifying transdiagnostic constructs that reflect core mechanisms of psychopathology. Although the RDoC framework has been discussed in many prior papers, there are several methodological and conceptual points that have yet to be fully specified. For example, little discussion exists on the importance of distinguishing each construct's nomological network and linking it to risk for psychopathology. It has also been unclear the extent to which RDoC constructs (within and across systems) should relate to one another and how these associations may differ as a function of developmental period. These are important questions as we enter the RDoC era and psychophysiological measures represent an exciting tool to address these issues. In this paper, we discuss the currently un- (or under-)specified aspects of the RDoC initiative and highlight the advantages of the psychophysiological ‘unit of analysis.’ We also briefly review existing psychophysiological studies, within the positive and negative valence systems, that exemplify the RDoC approach and make recommendations for how future studies can help the field progress in this mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-337
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Negative valence system
  • Positive valence system
  • Psychophysiology
  • Research Domain Criteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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