Failure to Identify Robust Latent Variables of Positive or Negative Valence Processing Across Units of Analysis

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Background The heterogeneous nature of mood and anxiety disorders highlights a need for dimensionally based descriptions of psychopathology that inform better classification and treatment approaches. Following the Research Domain Criteria approach, this investigation sought to derive constructs assessing positive and negative valence domains across multiple units of analysis. Methods Adults with clinically impairing mood and anxiety symptoms (N = 225) completed comprehensive assessments across several units of analysis. Self-report assessments included nine questionnaires that assess mood and anxiety symptoms and traits reflecting the negative and positive valence systems. Behavioral assessments included emotional reactivity and distress tolerance tasks, during which skin conductance and heart rate were measured. Neuroimaging assessments included fear conditioning and a reward processing task. The latent variable structure underlying these measures was explored using sparse Bayesian group factor analysis. Results Group factor analysis identified 11 latent variables explaining 31.2% of the variance across tasks, none of which loaded across units of analysis or tasks. Instead, variance was best explained by individual latent variables for each unit of analysis within each task. Post hoc analyses 1) showed associations with small effect sizes between latent variables that were derived separately from functional magnetic resonance imaging and self-report data and 2) showed that some latent variables are not directly related to individual valence system constructs. Conclusions The lack of latent structure across units of analysis highlights challenges of the Research Domain Criteria approach and suggests that while dimensional analyses work well to reveal within-task features, more targeted approaches are needed to reveal latent cross-modal relationships that could illuminate psychopathology.

Biological psychiatry: cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging, 6(5)
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Yujia Peng
Yujia Peng
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Yujia Peng is an assistant professor at the School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Peking University.