Foreign Accent Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare medical disorder involving one’s speech, wherein the nature of one’s speech gets significantly altered in both rhythm and melody.  It is basically caused due to an injury to the brain or due to stroke or head trauma.

In such a case the cerebellum and other parts of the brain which controls and performs linguistic functions and determines the speech gets affected. This causes a distortion or an alteration in the speech as one begins to mispronounce syllables. This ultimately results one to speak in an accent which may sound exotic even though one speaks the native language. Quite a significant people all around the globe suffer from this problem.

Foreign Accent Syndrome Symptoms

The most obvious symptom of foreign accent syndrome is a distortion of one’s speech and pronunciation which makes one speak one’s native language in an accent that sounds too foreign. In such a case one tends to pronounce words with vowels at a lower pitch and in a longer manner. The sound quality and tempo of one’s verbal expression undergoes a significant change which is determined by the movement of the tongue and the jaws in a specific way.

It is quite common for those suffering from FAS to utter inappropriate words for describing something or substituting words with inappropriate ones. The problem of stringing sentences together in a wrong manner is also a symptom of FAS. All these problematic symptoms combine to completely distort the rhythm and tone of one’s speech. The symptoms of FAS may either be permanent or temporary, depending on the severity of the injury that one may have suffered from.

Foreign Accent Symptom Causes

The main causes of FAS lies in any kind of injury to the brain. In such situations, one may suffer from a stroke which is usually considered to be the most basic cause of Foreign Accent Syndrome. A brain trauma caused due to an injury to the brain may also be responsible for the same. Brain Hemorrhage and Multiple Sclerosis are other significant causes of FAS. In all such cases of injury to the brain, the Broca’s area of the brain or the Middle Frontal Gyrus may be significantly affected which alters the prosody of one’s speech.

Beyond the aforementioned causes, FAS may also be associated with other speech and communication disorders such as Apraxia and Aphasia. In the case of the former, one suffers from the inability to make sounds, utter syllables and words. And in the latter case, one suffers from the problem of not understanding and expressing a language. However, the particularities of the neural basis of the syndrome are still unknown to medical scientists.

Foreign Accent Syndrome Diagnosis

The diagnosis of FAS is based on the supply of one’s medical history as it facilitates the diagnosis of the syndrome.

At first a psychologist specifically a neuropsychologist tries to evaluate the psychology of the patient in order to rule out the possibility of a psychiatric disorder.

Then the diagnosis is taken over by a speech-language pathologist who tries to assess one’s proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. He/she is also responsible for examining muscles that are used for verbal communication.

For a proper diagnosis, the patient is also made to undergo certain imaging tests such as CT scan which provides an X-ray image of the brain, MRI Scan which scans the structures inside the brain so as to detect any flaws, and the PET scan which detects problems in the functional activity of the brain. Besides these three, two more tests are also conducted, namely, EEG which records the neural activity of the brain and aids the diagnosis of FAS by a neurologist, and SPECT scan, which detects flaws in the circulation of the blood to and from the brain.

Foreign Accent Syndrome Treatment

The treatment for foreign accent syndrome lies in the acknowledgement of the severity of the injury that one may have suffered which has actually contributed to the disorder. Just not the acknowledgement but methods adopted to treat and heal the injury also matters to a considerable extent.

However, patients suffering from FAS might undergo a speech therapy and opt for counseling. Speech therapy tries to correct one’s speech by teaching one to move the jaws, the lips and the tongue in a proper manner. And counseling is required because of the depression one may suffer from due to social exclusion and embarrassment for not being able to speak properly or for not being understandable for the others.

Besides these methods of treatment, one may also have to abstain from smoking and drug addiction. Maintaining a healthy diet with regular exercise facilitates the treatment for FAS.

However, recent studies regarding the disorder have suggested that the term ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome’ that is used to refer to this condition is actually a misnomer. In fact, it has come to the fore that the patients display an alteration in their linguistic prosody and do not in any case speak in a foreign accent. The assumption of the listeners to term the disorder into an act of emulating a foreign accent is not a correct one, since the speech fluctuates in its resemblance to other languages but is no way related to a completely different dialect. Hence, the commonly used term for this disorder is a mere simplification of sorts which suffers the need for rectification.

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