Imagine this: You go to bed, and everything is normal. But when you wake up, you suddenly have an accent from a country you’ve never been to. It sounds impossible, but this unusual condition is called Foreign Accent Syndrome, and although it’s uncommon, it does happen.
But what is Foreign Accent Syndrome (also known as FAS), exactly?
FAS made headlines this week when Michelle Myers, a 45-year-old woman from Arizona, opened up about her struggle with the syndrome, which has somehow given her British, Australian, and Irish accents all in the space of the last two years. It’s definitely a rare condition, but Myers isn’t the only person who’s suffered from it. But what causes FAS in the first place?
As Dr. Akshay Ganju wrote in an article for ABC News, the condition can occur following a brain injury or a stroke. It causes an immediate change in speech, including the patient’s rhythm and tone. If you think a friend or family member might be affected, it’s definitely considered an emergency, since something serious could have happened to cause it.
There’s also a second type of FAS, which can be caused by emotional trauma or by mental illnesses such as depression. But as far as FAS due to a brain injury goes, Ganju writes, there have only been about 100 documented cases since the condition was first discovered in 1907, so like we said before, it’s incredibly rare.
And according to The Atlantic, FAS can present in a few different ways. It’s not always just the foreign accent — someone who has the condition may also struggle with putting sentences together at all.
In this video of Myers, it’s easy to see how FAS has changed her speech:
Fortunately, FAS can be treated, although the success of treatment varies by patient, like any other condition. Most people who have FAS will need to undergo some kind of speech or language therapy, but that’s only successfully cured certain patients.
FAS is definitely a scary condition, made worse by the fact that doctors and researchers don’t seem to know that much about it yet. Hopefully a breakthrough is on its way, but until then, if you suspect someone might be suffering from FAS, it’s best to see a doctor ASAP.