Medical Content

Foreign Accent Syndrome: Is It a Real Condition?

Sep 2, 2022

Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) occurs when you suddenly start speaking with a different accent. It is most common following a head injury, stroke, or other brain damage.

It is an actual condition, although extremely rare. Since the first recorded incidence in 1907, only about 100 people have been diagnosed with this condition.

Some interesting examples include an Australian woman with FAS who developed a French-sounding accent after a vehicle accident. In 2018, an American woman in Arizona woke up one day with an Australian, British, and Irish accent after falling asleep with a headache the night before.

It is not limited to English speakers. FAS can affect anyone and has been reported in cases and languages worldwide.

What causes foreign accent syndrome?

FAS is caused by damage to the part of the brain that regulates speech rhythm and melody. The damage may be due to:

  • Stroke (most common cause)
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Trauma to the brain, such as a sharp blow to the skull
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • A brain tumor

Stroke—Common Cause of Foreign Accent Syndrome

Diagnosis

The doctor will inquire about your symptoms and medical history. A physical examination will be performed, emphasizing the muscles used for speaking. A mental health assessment will rule out other possible causes.

Language abilities assessment. This is possible with:

  • Tests of reading, writing, and language comprehension
  • Speech patterns can be analyzed using recordings.

Images will be taken of the brain. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan
  • PET scan

An electroencephalogram (EEG) can be used to measure the brain's electrical activity.

FAS is a rare disease. A team of specialists may be required to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

The purpose of treatment is to keep symptoms under control. There are several options:

  • Speech therapy to improve the movement of the lips and jaw during speech
  • Counseling to assist in dealing with FAS

Prevention

There are no documented prevention guidelines for this syndrome. The most prevalent cause is a stroke. People who are at risk of having a stroke should take precautions.

References

  1. Keulen S, Verhoeven J, De Witte E, De Page L, Bastiaanse R, Mariën P. Foreign accent syndrome as a psychogenic disorder: a review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2016 Apr 27;10:168.
  2. Foreign Accent Syndrome: What Is It? Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/foreign-accent-syndrome

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