Heterogeneity and Subtyping in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder—Considerations for Emerging Research Using Person-Centered Computational Approaches

Sarah L. Karalunas, Joel T. Nigg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations


Few if any experts believe that existing psychiatric diagnostic categories included in DSM and ICD are actually discrete disease entities. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is emblematic of the problems in the existing psychiatric classification system. ADHD symptoms reliably cluster into two correlated dimensions in factor analysis. However, children with ADHD vary considerably in their symptom profiles, symptom trajectories, clinical outcomes, and biological and psychological correlates. Thus, the field has sought alternative approaches that harness the dimensions of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral functioning that underlie ADHD and other existing psychiatric categories to create informative phenotypes that improve clinical prediction and clarify etiology. Within ADHD, cognitive (neuropsychological) and temperament/personality features have received considerable attention. In some cases, subphenotypes based on these features appear to improve on existing classifications and could eventually be translated into clinical practice. This review summarizes findings from subphenotyping efforts in ADHD that use cognitive, emotion-related, and other features to highlight major considerations for research applying person-oriented approaches to inform an improved psychiatric nosology. Considerations related to feature selection, validation of newly proposed divisions, defining populations of interest, and incorporating a developmental perspective are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiological Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020



  • ADHD
  • Heterogeneity
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Person-centered approaches
  • Psychiatric classification
  • Taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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