An English woman wakes up with a new accent. What is the origin of “foreign accent syndrome”?

An English woman wakes up with a new accent.  What is the origin of “foreign accent syndrome”?

An English woman woke up one morning in June 2023 with a Welsh accent even though she had never set foot in Wales. How is it possible ? TipsForWomens interviewed Dr Wilfrid Casseron, neurologist, to understand this particular case.

Going to bed with an English accent, waking up the next morning with a Welsh accent: this is what happened to Zoé Coles, a 36-year-old Englishwoman, according to her TikTok video.

Only 150 cases described since 1907

The mother wonders if she is affected by foreign accent syndrome. Very rare, this syndrome has 150 documented cases around the world since its first mention in 1907, according to the Daily Mail which relates the story of Zoé Coles.

An American patient has thus been described adopting a Welsh or English accent, a Japanese adopting a Korean or more original accent, a Spaniard developing a Hungarian accent.

What is foreign accent syndrome?

Foreign accent syndrome is a rare neurological disorder. It can occur following shock or head trauma, but also after a stroke, a brain tumor or brain surgery. It therefore appears following lesions located in the area of ​​the frontal and frontoparietal lobe, mainly the areas involved in language.

@zoecoles1 #foreignaccentsyndrome #speech #welsh #accent #fyp ♬ original sound – zoecoles1

In addition to the change in accent, Zoé mentions functional neurological disorders, which cause her speech difficulties, walking problems and leg pain. If these disorders can persist, the foreign accent syndrome can be resolved, in a few months or even a few years, with the help of speech therapy sessions.

A mechanism that is not currently understood

Questioned, Dr. Wilfrid Casseron, neurologist, explains that the precise mechanism of this syndrome is not currently elucidated. “What happened to this patient is not clear, she would have to benefit from advanced brain explorations, with an MRI and a PET scan, for example, to identify possible brain lesions.”. In addition, the doctor does not exclude the psychiatric aspect. “In some described cases of foreign accent syndrome, patients suffered from a psychiatric pathology, such as conversion disorder also called hysteria. he adds.

According to him, we should not draw hasty conclusions, but this nevertheless shows that science is far from having completely clarified the mysteries of our gray matter.

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