A rare neurological disorder called Foreign Accent Syndrome has puzzled patients and physicians for decades. FAS comes on suddenly with the afflicted person speaking in a consistent “foreign” accent.
A neurological disorder known as Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) has puzzled patients and physicians for decades. Generally caused by injury to the brain following a stroke or other trauma, FAS comes on suddenly with the afflicted person speaking in a consistent “foreign” accent.
Scientists with the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland in College Park have identified what they believe is the underlying cause of Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a rare disorder that strikes people worldwide.
Joshua Riley of the University of Maryland and other researchers identified an unusual pattern of lesions in the brain’s motor cortex and parietal cortex regions using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in one FAS patient as they performed hand, jaw, and tongue maneuvers. The researchers observed that along with damage in the parietal lobe, there was a lesion in the primary motor cortex in the area that controls the tongue and speech.
ABC News covered a case of FAS a couple years ago. (Video)
In another case, a former university administrator in Newcastle, England, described having FAS as devastating experience and that she felt she’d lost her identity. She told the BBC:
"My sister-in-law said that I sounded Italian, then my brother said I sounded Slovakian and someone else said I sounded French Canadian. "But the latest is that I sound Jamaican, I just don't know how to explain it.”
And in a video on YouTube, FAS expert Jack Ryalls, professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Central Florida, meets with two British patients with FAS symptoms.
FAS became known to the greater medical community after Norwegian neurologist Georg Herman Monrad reported on a case in 1944, according to an FAS suport group.
Researchers believe continued MRI-assisted assessments of patients with FAS will shed needed light on the neural mechanisms that cause the disorder and lead to better treatments.
Some patients have been successfully treated through extensive speech therapy. In other cases, the syndrome has gone away on its own within a couple years, acording to NYU Medical Center. NYU recommends FAS patients enroll in couseling to help deal with feelings of isolation and ebarrassment.