An examination of the language construct in NIMH's research domain criteria: Time for reconceptualization!

Brita Elvevåg, Alex S Cohen, Maria K Wolters, Heather C Whalley, Viktoria-Eleni Gountouna, Ksenia A Kuznetsova, Andrew R Watson, Kristin K Nicodemus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The National Institute of Mental Health's Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Initiative "calls for the development of new ways of classifying psychopathology based on dimensions of observable behavior." As a result of this ambitious initiative, language has been identified as an independent construct in the RDoC matrix. In this article, we frame language within an evolutionary and neuropsychological context and discuss some of the limitations to the current measurements of language. Findings from genomics and the neuroimaging of performance during language tasks are discussed in relation to serious mental illness and within the context of caveats regarding measuring language. Indeed, the data collection and analysis methods employed to assay language have been both aided and constrained by the available technologies, methodologies, and conceptual definitions. Consequently, different fields of language research show inconsistent definitions of language that have become increasingly broad over time. Individually, they have also shown significant improvements in conceptual resolution, as well as in experimental and analytic techniques. More recently, language research has embraced collaborations across disciplines, notably neuroscience, cognitive science, and computational linguistics and has ultimately re-defined classical ideas of language. As we move forward, the new models of language with their remarkably multifaceted constructs force a re-examination of the NIMH RDoC conceptualization of language and thus the neuroscience and genetics underlying this concept. © 2016 The Authors. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics
Early online date10 Mar 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Mar 2016


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