Foreign Accent Syndrome: Texas Woman Wakes Up From Jaw Surgery with British Accent

Lisa Alamia underwent jaw surgery in December last year to correct a serious overbite, and reportedly, the operation was a complete success. That is until she opened her mouth to speak and sounded completely different. It turns out she is suffering from foreign accent syndrome.

According to a report by the Star, foreign accent syndrome is a rare speech disorder first described back in 1907 by French neurologist Pierre Marie. Reportedly since then, there have been only around 100 documented cases of the speech disorder.

Basically, a person with foreign accent syndrome speaks with an accent considered by the patients themselves, and by doctors and others, to sound “foreign” and completely unlike the patient’s previous dialect. The speech disorder does not, apparently, require previous exposure by the person to such an accent.

Normally, foreign accent syndrome (or FAS) is experienced following a stroke, but it has also been diagnosed in patients suffering from traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral hemorrhage. Only very few incidents of FAS appear to have any psychological origins.

In Alamia’s case, she was in the Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital for jaw surgery, and when the 33-year-old woke up, she had minimal swelling, and the operation appeared to have been a total success.

However, when she opened her mouth to speak, she no longer sounded anything like a Houston-area native speaker. She now sounds uncannily British.

Alamia told KHOU, “My daughter laughs at the way I say ‘tamales.’ I used to be able to say it like a real Hispanic girl, now, I cannot.”

At first, Alamia said her surgeon believed her voice change was “just a physical result of the surgery and that it would go away as I healed,” but now, months later, she still sounds incredibly English.

She eventually visited neurologist Toby Yaltho at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates, who diagnosed her with the very rare condition foreign accent syndrome.

Yaltho said in a press release that Alamia’s case is “fascinating and very rare” and “[m]ost neurologists work their entire careers and never come across FAS.”

The Washington Post reports Yaltho conducted MRI scans in an attempt to see if Alamia had suffered a stroke, seizure, or another injury that might have led to FAS. He also ran an electroencephalogram to detect abnormal brain waves, but everything reported came back as totally normal.

Yaltho says the cause of Alamia’s FAS is a total mystery, saying, “There was no evidence of stroke or other abnormalities.”

Alamia took a while to get used to how she now she now pronounces various words. For instance, if she says “mom” it comes out as “mum,” just like an English person would pronounce it.

She said at first she was reluctant to tell anyone about her condition, saying she didn’t know what reaction she could get from other people and wondered if they would judge her.

“Are they going to think I’m lying or even understand how I’m speaking?”

Last year, the Inquisitr reported a similar story about a British woman who woke up after suffering a stroke to find she was speaking like a Chinese person.

In the case of Sarah Colwill, 40, the syndrome was caused by a “drawing out” or “clipping” of the vowels that made her speech sound like a Chinese accent even though she had never visited that country.

However, in the latest case, Alamia will probably never know why she has been affected by foreign accent syndrome and now sounds so entirely British.

[Image via YouTube]