Justine Sergent

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Justine Sergent
Born (1950-03-31)March 31, 1950
Died April 11, 1994(1994-04-11) (aged 44)
Cause of death Suicide
Residence Montreal
Nationality Lebanese
Citizenship Canadian
Education PhD
Alma mater McGill University
Known for Functional neuroanatomy of face processing: the Fusiform face area
Spouse(s) Sergent
Scientific career
Fields Neuropsychology
Institutions McGill University
Influenced Nancy Kanwisher

Justine Saade-Sergent (March 31, 1950 – April 11, 1994)[1] was a researcher in the field of cognitive neuroscience. She received her PhD from McGill University. She was an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University from 1979 - 1982.[2]

Sergent was considered a top scientist in her field, until she was anonymously accused of violating research ethics. The stress of the attack on her character and on her research was so much that she and her husband committed suicide together less than two years later. Three years after her death, the inquiry was unable to come up with any evidence of fraud.

Early life[edit]

Justine Saade was born March 31, 1950 in Lebanon. While teaching there, she met her later-to-be husband Yves Sergent. They then moved to France where they married. Justine Sergent later enrolled at McGill University where she earned her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.[3]


Justine Sergent was one of the first researchers that brought forth evidence towards the functional neuroanatomy of face processing. She described the Fusiform face area or FFA in 1992.[4]

Using positron emission tomography (PET), Sergent found that there were different patterns of activation in response to the two different required tasks, face processing and object processing.[5]

This processing area was later named by Nancy Kanwisher in 1997[6] who proposed that the existence of the FFA is evidence for domain specificity in the visual system.

Scandal and death[edit]

The story of Justine Sergent represents an infamous case of workplace mobbing in Canadian academia. It happened at McGill University under the stewardship of David Johnston (later to become Governor General of Canada). Her mobbing culminated in July 1992, in an anonymous letter, when Sergent was accused of violating ethical research procedures (a known academic mobbing technique). She was accused of failing to get approval from an ethics committee for her research on the brain function of pianists. The research included the use of a PET scan, which requires the injection of radioactive isotopes. Sergent responded that the approval remained in effect, since nothing in the original experiment for which she had gotten approval had changed but the stimuli (subjects were now looking at musical notes rather than letters). In 1993, Johnston reprimanded Sergent for her failure to report this slight change in stimuli in her experiments to the ethics committee.[7]

Almost two years after the first anonymous letter was sent out, several copies of another anonymous letter were sent out. The letter attempted to further discredit Sergent by linking her research conduct to the case of a Dr. Roger Poisson of St. Luc Hospital. Dr. Poisson had admitted to falsifying records in his breast cancer research. One of these letters was received by the Montreal Gazette and on April 9, 1994, they published an article on Sergent's 1993 reprimand. The weekend after this article was published, Sergent and her husband were found dead in their garage from carbon monoxide poisoning. The coroner pronounced their time of death 11:40 am April 12, 1994.[8] There was a suicide note citing the anonymous letter as a reason for their suicide.[9] The note was published in both the Gazette and La Presse.[2]

An inquiry into Johnston's actions against Sergent at McGill, and her alleged ethical violations, was suspended on July 15, 1997 by Sergent's estate.[10]



  • Lawrence M. Parsons, Justine Sergent, Donald A. Hodges, Peter T. Fox, "The brain basis of piano performance". Neuropsychologia, 43(2), 199-215 (2005)


  • Sergent, J. (1994). Brain-imaging studies of cognitive functions. Trends in Neurosciences, 17(6), 221-227.
  • Sergent, J. (1994). Cognitive and neural structures in face processing. In A. Kertesz (Ed.), Localization and neuroimaging in neuropsychology. foundations of neuropsychology (Academic Press ed., pp. 473–494). San Diego, CA.
  • Sergent, J. (1994). La mémoire des visages. La Recherche, 267, 792-797.
  • Sergent, J., MacDonald, B., Zuck, E. (1994). Structural and functional organization of knowledge about faces and proper names : A prositron emission tomography study. In C. Umiltà, & M. Moscovitch (Eds.), Attention and performance XV : Conscious and noncouscious information processing (MIT Press ed., pp. 203)
  • Sergent, J., Ohta, S., MacDonald, B., Zuck, B. Segregated processing of facial identity and emotion in the human brain: A pet study Vis cogn, 1(2), 349-369 (1994)
  • Sergent, J. Mapping the musician brain Hum Brain Mapp, 1(1), 20-38 (1993)
  • Sergent, J. (1993). Mapping the musician brain. Human Brain Mapping, 1(1), 20-38. doi:10.1002/hbm.460010104
  • Sergent, J. (1993). Music, the brain and ravel. Trends in Neurosciences, 16(5), 168-172. doi:10.1016/0166-2236(93)90142-9
  • Corballis, M. C., Sergent, J. (1992). Judgements about numerosity by a commissurotomized subject. Neuropsychologia, 30(10), 865-876.
  • Sergent, J. (1992). Functional neuroanatomy of face and object processing : A positron emission tomography study. Brain, 115(1), 15-36. doi:10.1093/brain/115.1.15
  • Sergent, J. (1992). Varieties of functional deficits in prospagnosia. Cerebral Cortex, 2(5), 375-388. doi:10.1093/cercor/2.5.375
  • Gross, C. G., Sergent, J. (1992). Face recognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 2(2), 156-161.
  • Sergent, J. (1992). Positron emission tomography study of letter and object processing : Empirical findings and methodological considerations. Cerebral Cortex, 2(1), 68-80. doi:10.1093/cercor/2.1.68
  • Sergent, J., Signoret, J. (1992). Implicit access to knowledge derived from unrecognized faces in prosopagnosia. Cerebral Cortex, 2(5), 389-400. doi:10.1093/cercor/2.5.389
  • Sergent, J., Zuck, E., Terriah, S., MacDonald, B. (1992). Distributed neural network underlying musical sight-reading and keyboard performance. Science, 257(5066), 106-109.
  • Sergent, J., Signoret, J., Bruce, V., Rolls, E. T. (1992). Functional and anatomical decomposition of face processing : Evidence from prosopagnosia and PET study of normal subjects (and discussion). Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 335(1273), 55-62.
  • Sergent, J. (1991). Judgments of relative position and distance on representations of spatial relations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 17(3), 762-780. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.17.3.762
  • Sergent, J. (1991). Processing of spatial relations within and between the disconnected cerebral hemispheres. Brain, 114(2), 1025-1043. doi:10.1093/brain/114.2.1025
  • Sergent, J., Corballis, M. C. (1991). 10 ups and downs in cerebral lateralization. In F. L. Kitterle (Ed.), Cerebral laterality : Theory & research (Psychology Press ed., ). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Sergent, J., Corballis, M. C., Generation of multipart images in the disconnected cerebral hemispheres Bull Psychon Soc, 28(4), 309-311 (1990)
  • Sergent, J. (1990). Furtive incursions into bicameral minds : Integrative and coordinating role of subcortical structures. Brain, 113(2), 537-568. doi:10.1093/brain/113.2.537
  • Sergent, J., Poncet, M. (1990). From covert to overt recognition of faces in a prosopagnosic patient. Brain, 113(4), 989-1004. doi:10.1093/brain/113.4.989
  • Sergent, J. (1990). The neuropsychology of visual image generation: Data, method, and theory. Brain and Cognition, 13(1), 98-129. doi:10.1016/0278-2626(90)90043-N


  • Corballis, M. C., Sergent, J. (1989). Mental rotation in a commissurotomized subject. Neuropsychologia, 27(5), 585-597. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(89)90105-X
  • Sergent, J. (1989). Image generation and processing of generated images in the cerebral hemispheres. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15(1), 170-178. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.15.1.170
  • Sergent, J. (1989). Intégration hémisphérique en l'absence de corps calleux. Médicinel Sciences, 5(10), 746-753. doi:10.4267/10608/3906
  • Sergent, J. (1989). Ontogenesis and microgenesis of face perception. Current Psychology of Cognition, 9(1), 123-128.
  • Sergent, J., Villemure, J. (1989). Prosopagnosia in a right hemispherictomized patient. Brain, 112(4975), 995. doi:10.1093/brain/112.4.975
  • Sergent, J., Corballis, M. C. (1989). Categorization of disoriented faces in the cerebral hemispheres of normal and commissurotomized subjects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 15(4), 701-710. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.15.4.701
  • Sergent, J. (1988). Face perception and the right hemisphere. In L. Weiskrantz (Ed.), Thought without language (Oxford University Press ed., pp. 108–131)
  • Sergent, J. (1988). An investigation into perceptual completion in blind areas of the visual field. Brain, 111(2), 347-373. doi:10.1093/brain/111.2.347
  • Corballis, M. C., Sergent, J. (1988). Imagery in a commissurotomized patient. Neuropsychologia, 26(1), 13-26. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(88)90027-9
  • Sergent, J. (1987). Failures to confirm the spatial-frequency hypothesis : Fatal blow or healthy complication? Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 41(4), 412-428. doi:10.1037/h0084170
  • Sergent, J. (1987). Information processing and laterality effects for object and face perception. In G. W. Humphreys, & M. J. Riddoch (Eds.), Visual object processing: A cognitive neuropsychological approach (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. ed., pp. 145–173)
  • Sergent, J., Takane, Y. (1987). Structures in two-choice reaction-time data. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13(2), 300-315. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.13.2.300
  • Sergent, J. (1987). A new look at the humain split-brain. Brain, 110(5), 1375-1392. doi:10.1093/brain/110.5.1375
  • Hellige, J. B., Sergent, J. (1986). Role of task factors in visual field asymmetries. Brain and Cognition, 5(2), 200-222. doi:10.1016/0278-2626(86)90055-2
  • Sergent, J. (1986). Microgenesis of face perception. Aspects of Face Perception, 28, 17-33. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-4420-6_2
  • Sergent, J., Hellige, J. B. (1986). Role of input factors in visual-field asymmetries. Brain and Cognition, 5(2), 174-199. doi:10.1016/0278-2626(86)90054-0
  • Sergent, J. (1986). Prolegomena to the use of the tachistoscope in neuropsychological research. Brain and Cognition, 5(2), 127-130. doi:10.1016/0278-2626(86)90051-5
  • Sergent, J. (1985). Influence of task and input factors on hemispheric involvement in face processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 11(6), 846-861. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.11.6.846
  • Sergent, J., Myers, J. J. (1985). Manual, blowing, and verbal simple reactions to lateralized flashes of light in commissurotomized patients. Perception & Psychophysics, 37(6), 571-578. doi:10.3758/BF03204924
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Configural processing of faces in the left and the right cerebral hemispheres. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 10(4), 554-572. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.10.4.554
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Processing of visually presented vowels in the cerebral hemispheres. Brain and Language, 21(1), 136-146. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(84)90042-7
  • Sergent, J. (1984). An investigation into component and configural processes underlying face perception. British Journal of Psychology, 75(2), 221.
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Hemispheric mediation of same-different judgments. Perception & Psychophysics, 35(6), 592-595. doi:10.3758/BF03205960
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Role of contrast, lettercase, and viewing conditions in a lateralized word-naming task. Perception & Psychophysics, 35(5), 489-498. doi:10.3758/BF03203925
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Hemispheric competence and perceptual confusability. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 35(4), 589-596. doi:10.1080/14640748308402148
  • Sergent, J. (1984). Inferences from unilateral brain damage about normal hemispheric functions in visual pattern recognition. Psychological Bulletin, 96(1), 99-115. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.96.1.99
  • Sergent, J., Lorber, E. (1983). Perceptual categorization in the cerebral hemispheres. Brain and Cognition, 2(1), 39-54. doi:10.1016/0278-2626(83)90028-3
  • Sergent, J. The analytic/holistic dichotomy: An epiphenomenon. Behav Brain Sci, 6(03), 521 (1983)
  • Sergent, J. (1983). Unified response to bilateral hemispheric stimulation by a split-brain patient. Nature, 305, 800-802. doi:10.1038/305800a0
  • Sergent, J. (1983). The effects of sensory limitations on hemispheric processing. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 345-366.
  • Yoshio Takane, Justine Sergent, Multidimensional scaling models for reaction times and same-different judgments. Psychometrika, 48(3), 393-423 (1983)
  • Sergent, J. (1983). Role of the input in visual hemispheric asymmetries. Psychological Bulletin, 93(3), 481-512. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.93.3.481
  • Sergent, J. (1982). About face: Left-hemisphere involvement in processing physiognomies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8(1), 1-14. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.8.1.1
  • Sergent, J. (1982). Basic determinants in visual-field effects with special reference to the hannay et al. (1981) study. Brain and Language, 16(1), 158-164. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(82)90079-7
  • Sergent, J., Holzer, B. A. Influence of luminance on hemispheric processing Bull Psychon Soc, 20(4), 221-223 (1982)
  • Sergent, J. (1982). Theoretical and methodological consequences of variations in exposure duration in visual laterality studies. Perception & Psychophysics, 31(5), 451-461. doi:10.3758/BF03204855
  • Sergent, J. (1982). Influence of input characteristics on hemispheric cognitive processing. McGill University, Thesis for Ph.D.
  • Sergent, J. (1982). The cerebral balance of power: Confrontation or cooperation? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 8(2), 253-272. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.8.2.253
  • Sergent, J., Bindra, D. (1981). Differential hemispheric processing of faces: Methodological considerations and reinterpretation. Psychological Bulletin, 89(3), 541-554. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.3.541


  • Sergent, J., Lambert, W. E. Learned helplessness or "learned incompetence"? Can J Behav Sci, 11(4), 257-273 (1979)
  • Sergent, J., Binik, Y. M. On the Use of Symmetry in the Rorschach Test. Journal of Personality Assessment, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1979. pp. 355–359.

In memoriam[edit]

  • The Justine and Yves Sergent International Prize in Cognitive Neuroscience[11]
  • The Justine and Yves Sergent Conference[12]

Eve Séguin, "Mobbing, ou l'extermination concertée d'une cible humaine"[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heilman, K. M. (1996). "In memoriam Justine Saade Sergent: Neuropsychologist extraordinaire March 31, 1950-April 11, 1994". Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society : JINS. 2 (5): 474. PMID 9375173.
  2. ^ a b "McGill Reporter". reporter-archive.mcgill.ca. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Heilman, Kenneth M. "Justine Saade Sergent: Neuropsychologist extraordinaire March 31, 1950–April 11, 1994". Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  4. ^ Sergent J, Ohta S, MacDonald B (Feb 1992). "Functional neuroanatomy of face and object processing. A positron emission tomography study". Brain 115 (1): 15–36. doi:10.1093/brain/115.1.15. PMID 1559150.
  5. ^ Sergent, J., Signoret, J.L. (1992) Functional and anatomical decomposition of face processing: evidence from prosopagnosia and PET study of normal subject. The Royal Society. 335, 55–62
  6. ^ Kanwisher N, McDermott J, Chun MM (June 1, 1997). "The fusiform face area: a module in human extrastriate cortex specialized for face perception". J Neurosci. 17 (11): 4302–11. PMID 9151747.
  7. ^ "Suicide at McGill". www.kwesthues.com. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  8. ^ http://www.mcmaster.ca/ors/ethics/ncehr/2003/mar2003/sergent.txt
  9. ^ "Pacte de suicide à McGill – Voyage à travers le Québec". Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  10. ^ "Home - Northwestern University Law Review" (PDF). www.law.northwestern.edu. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  11. ^ "Fonds Justine & Yves Sergent – Justine & Yves Sergent Fund". justine-yves-sergent.org. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  12. ^ "Brams | Isabelle Peretz to receive the Justine and Yves Sergent Award 2009". www.brams.org. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  13. ^ "UQAM.tv - ISS: Mobbing, ou l'extermination concertée d'une cible humaine". UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal). December 1, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2018 – via YouTube.

External links[edit]