September 21, 2015

This week Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), announced he will soon be stepping down for a position at Google. The departure of such a brilliant psychiatric researcher will certainly be a loss to the NIMH. However, in many ways his departure is actually a continuation of the work he started there and not a change in course at all.To understand, we first need to review the Research Domain Criteria Project  (RDOC) that was launched under Dr. Insel’s tenure at NIMH. RDOC creates a novel framework to understand psychiatric illnesses not based on current classifications or labels but rather in terms of a matrix with domains of illness on one axis and units of analysis to measure those domains on the other. It is worth taking a look at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-priorities/rdoc/research-domain-criteria-matrix.shtml . For now, lets focus on the units of analysis in RDOC. These begin with genes and then moves on to molecules followed by cells, circuits, physiology, behavior, self-reports, and paradigms.



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