Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Foreign accent syndrome 2

Hours after Michelle Myers went to bed with a "pounding" headache, the mother of seven woke up and realized something was wrong — the left side of her body was numb.

Myers was rushed to nearby West Valley Hospital in Goodyear, Ariz. Doctors said she was suffering from aphasia, loss of speech, typically caused by a brain injury or stroke.

“I went to say, ‘My name is Michelle,’ and it came out like, “Rabbit, fox…,” Myers told Fox News. “No one could understand me. I was like, 'Is something wrong with my brain?'"

Eventually, Myers was able to form a sentence. But it was unlike anything her family had ever heard — the woman, who grew up in Oklahoma, sounded British. Her doctors even seemed surprised. They sent in a psychiatrist, who put Myers through a series of tests.

The 45-year-old was diagnosed with a speech disorder called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). The condition is extremely rare, with only 60 cases reported since 1907, according to a 2011 study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ.

This happened back in May 2015, and Myers' accent has been the same ever since.

“It’s physiological or can be triggered — psychological,” Myers explained. “Either one, it’s not controlled by the person.”

Doctors told Myers FAS was most likely a side effect caused by a hemiplegic migraine, a serious type of migraine headache with symptoms that are similar to a stroke…

Myers also suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a genetic connective tissue disorder, though experts said there’s no proof this contributed to the accent change.

This wasn’t the first time Myers’ noticed her accent change.

In 2011, after suffering from a three-day-long headache, Myers took a nap. When she woke up, she called one of her children and noticed his name sounded different.

All of the sudden, Myers said she had an Irish accent.

“I thought doctors would think I was crazy,” Myers said. “At first, people were laughing. They thought I was playing, but they quickly saw my panic.”

Myers was embarrassed. She figured the accent would eventually go away, and it did.

“It took eight days exactly,” Myers recalled. “One morning, I woke up and it wasn’t so bad. By the afternoon it was completely gone and so was the headache.”

At the time, Myers didn’t correlate the headache and the intonation change.
But in 2014, it happened again.

Myers was sitting on her backyard porch swing watching her children play when she felt a sharp pain in her head. She rested her eyes for a few minutes and woke up with a sharp pain on her left side.

Her left hand and arm went numb. She tried to speak, but couldn't form coherent words.

"It was like a gargling sound," Myers said. "I was really frustrated and scared."

When Myers did eventually form a sentence, she said she sounded like "Crocodile Dundee." Within minutes, she regained the feeling back on her left side.

Within two days, her accent was back to normal.

"I was like, 'Maybe it's just cause I had a headache," Myers said. "I'm a single mom with seven kids... I don't have time to sit and address something unless I'm dying."

Now that Myers has a diagnosis, the mom is doing all she can to seek treatment. She's seen specialists, visited neurologists but most importantly, she's spreading awareness of the rare condition.

"I would give anything to be normal. I would give anything," she said. "Rare diseases are very emotional. You feel very alone, isolated. I want to help someone so they don't have to live in hiding."

Myers has since joined a Facebook group for FAS. The 100 members discuss the condition and offer advice and comfort to the newly diagnosed.



  1. Bhandari HS. Transient foreign accent syndrome. BMJ Case Rep. 2011 Nov 8;2011.

    Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a poorly understood and studied syndrome as it is indeed a rare entity. Since its first description in 1907 by French neurologist Pierre Marie involving a patient who presented with an Alsatian accent, there are approximately only 60 cases reported in the literature. The majority of such cases of FAS have been secondary to cerebrovascular accidents. Of the cases in the literature, none report such a transitory nature of FAS. In this particular case, a 55-year-old male presented with a foreign accent. This FAS was triggered by ischemia and was reversed after a seizure, the first reported in the literature.

    From the article

    A 55-year-old Texan male, presented with a day history of another accent. His son noted his pronunciation of words as ‘foreign’. He denied issues with writing, reading, or grammar and denied any other systemic symptoms including neurological deficits. His medical history included hypertension, obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia and cerebrovascular accidents (CVAs): left frontal infarction (2003) and left parieto-occipital infarction (2007). No medications or allergies were significant to this case. He smoked half pack per day for 20 years and denied illicit drug use. Family history is non-contributory...

    He followed complex commands and his speech was clear and fluent. Of note, multiple medical personnel noted that the patient sounded as if he had a Cockney accent. The patient did not recognise his accent as foreign. Language showed minor disruptions as alterations of syllable structure. There was no change in tone, rate, or pitch, no sound substitutions, perseveration, or echolalia, no difficulty with speech initiation and there was preservation of syntax. No alexia or agraphia of mono-syllable and multi-syllable words, phrases, or sentences were noted.,,

    Within minutes of the examination, the patient exhibited right head version followed by a Jacksonian march up his right arm, which was witnessed. This evolved into a tonic-clonic generalised seizure lasting 30 s. Postictal confusion lasted 30 min...

    MRI of his brain revealed restricted diffusion in the left parieto-occipital region and in the left middle frontal gyrus...

    Subsequently, his neurological examination remained similar to the initial examination except that he reverted to his Texan accent. The patient has not been to Britain and does not have relatives/friends there. This was no re-occurrence of his FAS at discharge. He was lost to follow-up.

  2. Michelle Myers is a woman from Arizona who’s never left the country. But although Myers used to speak like any other American, the 45-year-old now talks with a British accent, reports the magazine Smithsonian.

    Her accent literally changed overnight when Myers went to sleep with a headache and then woke up with a British inflection. Though it might seem comical, her rare language change is actually a medical condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS).

    Myers also suffers from a condition called Ehlers-Danlos, which causes her to have extremely flexible joints. The condition has the potential to cause ruptured blood vessels.

    According to the University of Texas, FAS often occurs due to stroke or head trauma. Some cases have also been linked to multiple sclerosis, while others don’t have a clear cause.

    The Texas university mentions that people with the condition typically have changes in the timing or intonation of speech. This gives them the sound of a foreign accent.

    However, there have been cases of FAS in which a person starts speaking a different language.

    In 2016, other outlets reported on a 16-year-old woke up from a coma speaking fluent Spanish after a soccer injury. The boy spoke primarily English before, although he knew some Spanish. At the time of the report, the boy’s English was slowly returning.

    Other FAS cases have occurred all over the world, including those who have switched from British English to French or from Spanish to Hungarian, says the University of Texas.

    In Myers’s case, she had experienced previous bouts of foreign accent changes before her most recent case. But those lasted only a few weeks, reports Smithsonian. However, she’s had her British accent for several years now.

    Doctors think it may have been caused by a hemiplegic migraine, states the historical magazine. These migraines are rare but produce symptoms similar to a stroke, which may have influenced Myers’s speech.