Animals

Can Brain Damage Give You A Foreign Accent?

We've all tried imitating foreign accents, but what if you couldn't stop? What is foreign accent syndrome and why do some people have it?

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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Speaking with a convincing foreign accent represents an entire discipline for professional actors. But some people develop foreign accents involuntarily -- and more or less spontaneously. It's a real medical condition, and it has scientists baffled.

In this edition of DNews, Lissette Padilla explores the mysterious phenomenon of Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a speech disorder in which people begin involuntarily speaking their native tongue with specific accents or different dialects.

Around 140 cases of FAS have been documented worldwide. In one U.K. case, a mother of two -- who has never left Britain -- began speaking in an odd accent that's now lasted for almost ten years. Some think the accent sounds French, others German, and still others hear Italian or Japanese.

RELATED: What is Foreign Accent Syndrome?

After multiple tests and observations, the woman was diagnosed with FAS. In her specific case, the speech disruption was caused by a certain kind of cerebral vasculitis, in which the portion of her brain responsible for speech was not receiving enough oxygen.

Similar brain conditions have been associated with FAS. Many people diagnosed with FAS also suffer from migraines, or developed the condition after having a stroke.

Others appear to exhibit the condition from birth. In the case of one Dutch teenager, his FAS presented as a strong French or Mediterranean accent. Tests later revealed that the subject's brain was getting reduced blood flow to the expected regions, associated with speech. But the tests also revealed reduced blood flow to the right side of the cerebellum, the region linked to body movement.

These recent discoveries have generated more questions, but they've done much to dispel initial skepticism around the phenomenon. These people aren't faking it. Foreign Accent Syndrome is a genuine speech disorder, just a very weird one.

Read More:

Discovery News: What is Foreign Accent Syndrome?

New Scientist: The Teenager Who Can't Help Speaking in a French Accent

Frontiers: Developmental Foreign Accent Syndrome: Report of a New Case