Neurobiology and the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology: Progress toward ontogenetically informed and clinically useful nosology

Emily R. Perkins, Keanan J. Joyner, Christopher J. Patrick, Bruce D. Bartholow, Robert D. Latzman, Colin G. DeYoung, Roman Kotov, Ulrich Reininghaus, Samuel E. Cooper, Mohammad H. Afzali, Anna R. Docherty, Michael N. Dretsch, Nicholas R. Eaton, Vina M. Goghari, John D. Haltigan, Robert F. Krueger, Elizabeth A. Martin, Giorgia Michelini, Anthony C. Ruocco, Jennifer L. TackettNoah C. Venables, Irwin D. Waldman, David H. Zald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is an empirical structural model of psychological symptoms formulated to improve the reliability and validity of clinical assessment. Neurobiology can inform assessments of early risk and intervention strategies, and the HiTOP model has greater potential to interface with neurobiological measures than traditional categorical diagnoses given its enhanced reliability. However, one complication is that observed biological correlates of clinical symptoms can reflect various factors, ranging from dispositional risk to consequences of psychopathology. In this paper, we argue that the HiTOP model provides an optimized framework for conducting research on the biological correlates of psychopathology from an ontogenetic perspective that distinguishes among indicators of liability, current symptoms, and consequences of illness. Through this approach, neurobiological research can contribute more effectively to identifying individuals at high dispositional risk, indexing treatment-related gains, and monitoring the consequences of mental illness, consistent with the aims of the HiTOP framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-63
Number of pages13
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants F31MH122096 (ERP) and T32MH93311-08 (ERP); a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (KJJ); US Army grant W911NF-14-1-0018 (CJP); DFG Heisenberg Professorship 389624707 (UR); and Province of Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award ER14-10-185 (ACR). ACR is also a University of Toronto Scarborough Research Excellence Faculty Scholar. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the US Government, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Department of Veterans Affairs, or US Recruiting Command. Funding sources had no role in the study design, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication. ACR has received consulting fees from System Analytic; the other authors have no financial disclosures or competing interests. ERP, KJJ, and CJP contributed to the initial composition of the manuscript. All other authors contributed to revision of the manuscript, adding important intellectual content; members of the HiTOP Neurobiology Workgroup are listed by contribution (RDL to UR) and subsequently in alphabetical order (MHA to DHZ). The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers and Nancy J. Reed, MD, for their helpful input on earlier drafts of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, AICH - Servier Group


  • Dimensional
  • Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology
  • Liability
  • Neurobiology
  • Ontogenetic
  • Psychopathology
  • RDoC


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