Sunday, June 12, 2011

Foreign accent syndrome

from BoingBoing
National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran a fascinating story about "foreign accent syndrome," a very rare condition in which a brain injury seems to lead to a change in speech that sounds like the sufferer is speaking with a foreign accent. For example, Karen Butler went under anesthesia for dental surgery and emerged with a strange English-Irish accent. From NPR:
There have been only about 100 known cases of the syndrome since it was first reported in the 1940s. The most famous case was a Norwegian woman who was hit by shrapnel in World War II; she developed a German accent and was ostracized as a result.
Other cases include a British woman from Devon who developed a Chinese accent following a migraine, and another British woman who had a stroke and now sounds French.

(Neurologist Ted) Lowenkopf says FAS affects only a small area of speech — just the pattern and intonation. Strokes and brain trauma usually cause major damage to the brain and leave people with far bigger speech problems than just a change in accent.

Butler may have suffered a small stroke while she was under anesthesia, but she won't know for sure unless she has a brain scan. (She says her insurance company won't pay for one.) Lowenkopf says comparing an old scan that Butler received years ago to a new one could shed some light on what happened.

In the meantime, it's possible that Butler could get her American accent back through intensive speech therapy. But unlike other people with FAS who have become depressed by their change in accent, Butler quite likes her new one. She says it has made her more outgoing and is a good conversation starter.
" A Curious Case Of Foreign Accent Syndrome"

JUST IN CASE that wasn't weird enough, check out this incredible story over at DangerousMinds on "The Secret Language of Twins, Poto & Cabengo"

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