In my last post I listed the eight major clusters of psychological disorders, each related to one major basic emotion. Today I wish to relate the clusters to RDoC and in the next post I will relate with other overarching frameworks like the Gray/Erickson’s biopsychological models .
To recap, RDoC specifies five domains that have been determined based on genetic, behavioural and neural data. For the purpose of this post I will limit the discussion to the four domains of 1. negative valence system; 2. Positive valence system; 3 . Social systems and 4. Cognitive systems and will not talk about the fifth Arousal system, which I believe may not be a separate and different domain/ construct.
Each domain as per RDoC matrix has associated ‘constructs’ and ‘units of analysis’. Again, I’ll be ignoring the units of analysis and focusing just on constructs making the RDoC domains; also I’ll be ignoring or omitting some constructs and adding new ones.
Let’s start with the first domain ‘Negative valence system.’ As per RDoC, prominent constructs of this domain are:
I’m omitting ‘frustrative non-reward’ construct from above analysis.
My aim is to show the negative valence system as a threat/loss system sensitive to acute, potential, chronic and actual threat/loss and to map it to the 2 internalizing clusters. Thus I would say the negative valence system is made up of:
-ve valence system (threat/loss sensitive system)
Extending a similar analogy to the other 3 domains, we get:
+ve valence system (opportunity/ gain sensitive system)
Social system (loss of self-control/boredom sensitive system)
The above maps to externalizing disorder clusters of disgust-dependence disorders (addiction, pathological gambling, etc) and anger-impulsive clusters (anti-social disorder, conduct disorder, ODD, etc.)
Cognitive system (unpredictability/stress sensitive system)
The above maps to surprise-dissociation clusters (depersonalisation/ derealisation, absorption, amnesia, etc.) and love-delusional clusters (schizophrenia, psychosis).
It is instructive to note that as per my conceptualisation, the social system is an operant or self-learning system that is used in service of learning about self and one’s actions (agency) and also about other agents or peoples. Operant or Skinnerian conditioning is relevant here. Using this system one learns about the effect of one’s actions and learns how to control them (ones actions/ responses).
Also, the cognitive system is a classical or world-learning system that is used in service of learning about one’s body and the inanimate material world out there, and its contingencies. Classical or Pavlovian conditioning/learning are relevant here. Using this system, one learns about the relationships between different things/stimuli out in the world and learns how to predict events/stimulus.
Also it’s evident that –ve valence system is a threat mitigation system, while +ve valence system is an opportunity maximising system. To boot,
Functional significance of -ve valence system constructs: Fear (escape acute threat); anxiety (avoid potential threat); depression (disengage with sustained threat and conserve energy (stop fighting)); and distress (accept loss/move on).
Similarly, functional significance of +ve valence system constructs: Interest (pursue acute opportunity); obsession (be on the lookout for/ approach potential opportunity ); mania (have energy to engage with sustained opportunities (keep going)) and joy (learn what works and then repeat!)
Similarly functional significance of self learning/ social system constructs: Disgust (escape acutely toxic relationships/ interactions); (in)dependence (avoid potentially toxic relationships/ interactions); impulsive non-conformity (disengage with sustained toxic relationships/ interactions with the world (act different); anger (s### happens, so assert yourself)).
Lastly, functional significance of world learning/cognitive system constructs: surprise (attend to acute/ new causal pattern); dissociation (lookout for new potential patterns unencumbered with/detached from past learning (accommodate rather than assimilate)); delusional/ magical thinking (flexibility to interweave contradictions/survive amongst sustained and changing patterns and love/attraction (notice patterns and keep fitting/doing the tango)
I try to think of these as a new SWOT (self learning/social system; world learning/cognitive system; opportunity maximising/+ve valence system; and threat mitigation or -ve valence system).
In the next post, I will relate this framework to Gray’s biopsychological model and the BIS, BAS, FFS subsystems and his constructs of Anxiety, Impulsivity, Approach and Avoidance motivations.