What is foreign accent syndrome?

There are a large number of speech disorders, some of which are very common. On the other hand, there are also more rare and curious ones, such as the foreign accent syndrome. Do you want to know what it is and what are its causes? Read on and find out.

This is a rare speech disorder first described in 1907. In it, the patient's pronunciation is perceived with an accent different from the native one, making it appear that you are talking to a foreigner.

Foreign accent syndrome is not only limited to the pronunciation of words, but it can also damage the syntax and vocabulary of those who suffer from it. In addition, there are reports in which affectations in the length of the sentences are described and accents of countries of the world that the patient has not visited are used.

Causes of foreign accent syndrome

For a long time it was associated only with neurological causes. In this sense, they used to be situations that caused brain damage, such as a stroke. However, cases of foreign accent syndrome of psychiatric and mixed origin have been described.

Neurological causes

This is the main trigger of the syndrome, however, the exact mechanism by which it occurs is unknown. Various neurological observation techniques have shown damage in different areas of the brain: motor and language area of ​​the dominant hemisphere.

In addition to cerebrovascular accidents, there are other situations capable of damaging these areas of the brain, among which the following stand out:

Strokes leave several sequelae, among which we can count the foreign accent syndrome.

Psychiatric causes

In recent years, cases of patients with foreign accent syndrome who do not have brain damage have been reported. But nevertheless, they have suffered from psychiatric or psychological conditions, thus demonstrating that the disorder is more complex than previously believed.

In this sense, the main associated mental illnesses include psychosis, conversion disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. In the specific case of psychosis, the newly acquired accent will last throughout the attack. However, it usually subsides at the same time as the psychotic episode does.

Discover: Schizophrenia: symptoms and causes

Mixed causes

In these cases, initially the patient usually has neurological damage and then develops a psychiatric disorder, so a specific cause cannot be attributed to it. They are characterized by presenting loss of identity and developing a new personality.

At this point, it is worth highlighting a variant of the syndrome linked to development and growth. In it, cases of patients with this pathology who do not have brain damage or psychiatric disorders have been evidenced.

Symptoms of foreign accent syndrome

This curious syndrome is characterized by a variation in the pronunciation of the individual, who may not notice the alteration. In this way, we can find segmental and prosodic deficits:

  • Segmental deficits: It is possible to notice a greater alteration in the vowels, since patients tend to increase or decrease the pronunciation time of the same. On the other hand, there are very subtle changes in consonants and errors in pronunciation.
  • Prosodic deficits: we refer to an alteration in the rhythm and intonation of various words and phrases. In addition, a reduction of the time between syllables and the inversion of the intonation of a phrase can be found.

Diagnosis

People who suffer from this syndrome do not usually notice the variation in their dialect, so the observation usually comes from third parties. The diagnosis must be made by a specialist, however, it can be difficult due to the large number of similar pathologies.

To make a truthful diagnosis, the doctor will verify the patient's medical history, family history, and exposure to a foreign language. In addition, a careful examination of the speech muscles should also be done, as these are often affected.

In many cases, to look for the existence of neurological damage, an imaging test can be requested Observe the brain and its behavior. Computed axial tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are helpful.

The repercussions of the disorder are of a social nature, making it difficult for patients to interact with others.

Also read: Types of aphasia that a student should know

Treatment of foreign accent syndrome

In most cases the alteration in pronunciation disappears on its own after a few days or weeks, so a medical intervention will not be necessary. However, there are cases in which the syndrome does not go away and can remain for years.

This particular disorder must be considered as a motor disorder with neurological damage, so the therapy will be aimed at solving both problems. First, the underlying neurological or psychological pathology will be addressed.

On the other hand, the efficacy of speech therapies has been demonstrated in foreign accent syndrome. They have helped patients regain their native accent. In the same vein, a study from the University of Malaga demonstrated the efficacy of including donepezil in therapies.

Impact on people's lives

Despite the fact that this syndrome does not represent a danger to the life of those who suffer from it, can have a great psychological and social impact. This is because it makes it difficult for patients to communicate, making it difficult to understand what they are saying.

In addition, it is important not to ignore its presence, since the foreign accent syndrome can be indicative of the presence of some neurological or psychological pathology that we do not know. Therefore, it is best to go to the specialist as soon as possible.

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