Is Our Self Related to Personality? A Neuropsychodynamic Model

Andrea Scalabrini, Clara Mucci, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


The concept and the assessment of personality have been extensively discussed in psychoanalysis and in clinical psychology over the years. Nowadays there is large consensus in considering the constructs of the self and relatedness as central criterions to assess the personality and its disturbances. However, the relation between the psychological organization of personality, the construct of the self, and its neuronal correlates remain unclear. Based on the recent empirical data on the neural correlates of the self (and others), on the importance of early relational and attachment experiences, and on the relation with the brain’s spontaneous/resting state activity (rest–self overlap/containment), we propose here a multilayered model of the self with: (i) relational alignment; (ii) self-constitution; (iii) self-manifestation; and (iv) self-expansion. Importantly, these different layers of the self can be characterized by different neuronal correlates—this results in different neuronally grounded configurations or organizations of personality. These layers correspond to different levels of personality organization, such as psychotic (as related to the layer of self-constitution), borderline (as related to the layer of self-manifestation) and neurotic (as related to the layer of self-expansion). Taken together, we provide here for the first time a neurobiologically and clinically grounded model of personality organization, which carries major psychodynamic and neuroscientific implications. The study of the spontaneous activity of the brain, intrinsically related to the self (rest–self overlap/containment) and the interaction with stimuli (rest–stimulus interaction) may represent a further advance in understanding how our default state plays a crucial role in navigating through the internal world and the external reality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number346
Pages (from-to)346
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Oct 4 2018


  • Neuroscience
  • Personality organization
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Rest-self overlap/containment
  • Resting state fMRI
  • Self-relatedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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