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article imageA Scottish grandmother develops an Italian accent

By Elizabeth Cunningham Perkins     Sep 30, 2011 in Science
As Debbie McCann, 48, of Glasgow recovered from a stroke, she found her voice changing: first she sounded Chinese, then Italian. She was diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), a rare medical condition caused by brain damage, MailOnline reported.
McCann has been devastated by this surprising development, according to MailOnline; not recognizing her own voice and being questioned about where she might be "from originally" has diminished her self-confidence severely, she told the interviewer.
In this extremely rare disorder that follows brain trauma -- only several dozen cases of FAS have been documented since the first in 1907 -- distortions in sound articulation caused by lesions in the cerebellum, left brain or other areas involved with forming words and talking make the pronunciation of certain letters more difficult, changing the speaker's voice, with the result perceived as foreign-sounding somehow, similar to an accent or dialect, though the speaker still speaks in his or her native language (and does not suddenly acquire new language abilities), and linguists who study FAS can hear how the speech differs from the real accent or dialect it mimics.
Digital Journal reported on recent FAS research with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a case in Devon, UK apparently caused by migraine and another in the U.S. state of Oregon that followed oral surgery.
Unlike McCann, Karen Butler of Oregon grew fond of her distinctive FAS accent, which may be temporary, and could have been caused by a small stroke while she was anesthetized by her dentist, DiscoveryNews reported.
ScienceDaily reported on other FAS cases that were diagnosed within the last decade, and documented and studied by separate research teams: in the U.S. state of Florida in 2003 and in Ontario, Canada in 2008.
The Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) Support website collects patients' stories and offers networking and information, while the organization researches diagnosis and treatment.
More about FAS, Foreign accent syndrome, Stroke, brain disease, Brain disorder
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