Migraine sufferer wakes up with French accent

September 14, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A woman suffering a chronic migraine headache went for a lie down only to wake talking in a – FRENCH ACCENT.

Kay Russell, 49, spoke with a well-clipped accent until the acute migraine struck and she woke to find her speech was ”strange and slurred’ before it turned into a Gallic drawl.

Former saleswoman Kay went to hospital where she saw a neurologist and underwent an MRI scan who discovered the migraine had inflicted a mild form of brain damage.

Doctors diagnosed Kay with Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) – an extremely rare condition which damages part of the brain controlling speech and the way words are formed.

It is a one-in-250 million condition and there are just 60 recorded cases in the world.

Speaking yesterday, Kay, of Bishops Cleeve, near Cheltenham, Glos., said the condition had ”ruined her life” after it shattered her confidence forcing her to quit her job.

Kay, who has only ever been to France twice and hasn’t spoken the language since her O-Levels said: ”As a sufferer of this syndrome you are not trying to speak in an accent, it is a speech impediment.

”Whatever accent you hear, it is in the ears of the listener.

”My facial muscle movements are different, the inclination is different and the pronunciation.

”It also affects my hands and makes me write with a foreign accent. For example, I say peoples not people and that is how I would write it.

”A lot of people come up and say ‘what a lovely voice you have’.

”You lose your identity and an awful lot about yourself. I feel like I come across as a different person.

”It’s not just my voice I miss. I would love to have my old voice back obviously. But it goes way way beyond that. It’s the person I was – the person I want to be.

”People say to me I sound Eastern European or Russian.”

Divorcee Kay, who has two grown-up children and five grandchildren, has suffered migraines for years, which have worsened recently.

But she suffered a particularly intense attack on January 4 this year which left her bed-bound in agonising pain.

Kay awoke to find her voice pattern was slurred and when it eventually cleared Kay spoke with a strong Gallic accent.

She was forced to quit her job as a sales executive for Premiere Products in Cheltenham because the condition meant she was unable to carry out her role.

Kay misses out function words such as ‘a’, ‘of’ and ‘to’ and also slips into foreign dialect using ‘people’s’ instead of ‘people’.

She visited experts who diagnosed FAS, which can last for days, weeks, months, years or forever and there is currently no known cure.

There is little evidence or research done on the causes but the effects can be devastating, with even friends and relatives unable to recognise her.

FAS is an extremely rare disorder where parts of the brain that control speech are damaged, usually by a stroke or injury.

The condition is actually a speech impediment where the listener interprets a foreign accent.

Professor Nick Miller, from Newcastle University, is an expert on the subject and said there is no known cure for the condition, which can leave sufferers ‘devastated’.

He said: ”A lot of people with Foreign Accent Syndrome speak of a loss of their former accent or speak in terms of bereavement as though they have lost a bit of the their former selves.

”They say part of their personality has died almost or been lost to them.”

Experts believe there are around 60 people in the world currently suffering with FAS, including a 35 year-old from Devon whose thick West Country drawl was altered to Chinese.

Other cases include an American who began speaking in a French accent following a car crash, a British man sounding Mexican, a Norwegian developing a German accent, and a Portuguese man sounding Chinese.

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