A grandmother who went to bed suffering from a migraine was amazed to wake up speaking with a French accent. Kay Russell, 49, is now left with a voice that is unrecognizable to family and friends. Doctors say she has Foreign Accent Syndrome, a condition which damages the part of the brain that controls speech and word formation.
Mrs Russell has suffered from migraines for 20 years.
Their effects are normally limited to temporarily paralyzing her limbs and causing slurred speech. But since January 4 this year, she has not spoken with her natural accent.
After one bad migraine, she was left with slurred speech for two weeks and made an appointment to have an MRI scan and see a neurologist. Then one day she simply woke up with a French accent.
‘As a sufferer of this syndrome you are not trying to speak in an accent, it is a speech impediment,’ Mrs Russell said. …
‘My facial muscle movements are different, the inclination is different and the pronunciation.
‘It also affects my hands and makes me write with a foreign accent. For example, I say peoples not people and that is how I would write it.’ …
Is it real? It appears to be.
Although it’s extremely rare, it’s a real condition. Only about 100 people have been diagnosed with this condition since the first known case came to light in 1907.
Some examples of FAS include an Australian woman who developed a French-sounding accent after a car accident. In 2018, an American woman in Arizona woke up one day with a mixture of Australian, British, and Irish accents after falling asleep the night before with a headache.
It doesn’t just affect English speakers. FAS can happen to anyone and has been documented in cases and languages all over the world. …
What might trigger it?
… cases have been reported in the popular media as resulting from various causes including stroke, allergic reaction, physical injury, and migraine. (Wikipedia)
Can it be reversed?
It depends. Since it is usually caused by an injury to the part of the brain that controls speech, it can sometimes be reversed, like any other brain damage. There was one case I found where it reversed, a case of tumors of the nasopharynx involving all or most unilateral cranial nerves without involving the brain.
An English speaking women developed a French accent, without any aphasic syndromes, in conjunction with multiple left sided cranial nerve deficits, temporally related to cranial trauma. Extensive testing with multimodality magnetic resonance imaging, cerebrospinal fluid and laboratory analysis was unremarkable. She was followed over a 3 year period during which her French accent resolved as did the majority of her multiple unilateral cranial neuropathies. The neurological diagnoses included a foreign accent syndrome attributed to a reversible Garcin syndrome. (Paperity)
Brain Damage Reversed
There is a known case where brain damage in a toddler who drowned was reversed with oxygen therapy:
Fifty five days after the drowning accident, doctors started giving Eden normobaric oxygen for 45 minutes twice per day. …
After 78 days, Eden began HBOT therapy, with 45 minute sessions five days per week for four weeks. After 10 sessions, her mother said she was almost back to normal other than motor function. After 39 sessions—coupled with physical therapy—Eden was able to walk and her speech had returned to normal. Her cognitive abilities had improved and motor function was almost restored to pre-drowning levels.
An MRI scan a month after the 40th HBOT session showed almost complete reversal of the brain damage initially recorded. Researchers believe the oxygen therapy, coupled with Eden having the developing brain of a child, had activated genes that promote cell survival and reduce inflammation—allowing the brain to recover. The case report is published in the journal Medical Gas Research. (Newsweek)
Very interesting. It can be fun to talk with a foreign accent at times, but no one would want to be stuck doing so without the option to stop. Hopefully brain rehabilitation will help people with FAS to recover and to return to their previous normal speech patterns.