Foreign Accent Syndrome

FAS (Foreign Accent Syndrome) explained

After suffering a brain injury, some people sound as if they have a foreign accent when they speak. It may be that the injury has caused changes in the motor cerebral cortex. That is to say: in the areas responsible for the control of speech motor skills.


More than half of these neurological Foreign Accent Syndrome patients have had a stroke (CVA). Other causes may include: MS, brain tumor, traumatic brain injury such as a fall or a blow to the head.
If there is no neurological abnormality, it could possibly be a psychiatric condition. This will happen once in a while
seen in children as a language development disorder.


Language and speech problems due to brain damage

FAS often occurs mixed with dysarthria or aphasia.
Dysarthria is difficulty articulating; difficulty controlling the muscles of the lips, tongue, palate and vocal cords. Read more about dysarthria.

Aphasia is a problem with understanding and producing language. People can no longer access their language, cannot find the words, or they do not understand the language well.
It appears that FAS, foreign accent syndrome, is a mild form of apraxia. In this case, apraxia of speech. Complex
actions that require conscious control of the muscles. The muscles of the mouth and tongue still work well, but controlling this causes problems.


Where in the brain?

In most people (90%), the language capacity is in the left hemisphere of the brain.

10% of people have the language ability in the right hemisphere. People with FAS have been found with lesions in one and two locations in the brain involved in speech production.
Traditionally, two areas were referred to as language areas: the Broca area (difficulty speaking, language use) and the Wernicke area (language comprehension).


Scars visible in the left hemisphere of the brain on scans

Particularly in the middle part of the motor cortex, the post-central cerebral cortex, the part of the posterior inferior frontal cortex and/or middle frontal cortex, and the anterior putamen and the insula, which is a part of the brain below the lateral sulcus.


The cerebellum is also involved in coordinating movements and research also shows its involvement in language and speech problems.
FAS can also occur with damage to the frontal lobe, but research with blood flow scans showed that there were connections with the cerebellum, states Stefanie van Keulen, who obtained her PhD on this syndrome.


Sounds like French, Spanish

Research showed that people did not have the accent that suited a particular country area or regional area. For example, it sounds like a French accent, but native language experts with knowledge of every city or region in Belgium, France or French-speaking countries did not recognize this as fitting to one area.
Voice recordings were compared with healthy control groups
with the same accent from a certain region or city. There appeared to be differences in speech speed (slight delay), incorrect long pauses and monotonous intonation.
Every person is different and some people appeared to unknowingly reinforce this accent.



Often, in more than 30% of cases, Foreign Accent Syndrome disappears on its own. A speech therapist can provide help.

For more information see here and here.


A case of foreign accent syndrome, with follow-up clinical, neuropsychological and phonetic descriptions.

Gurd JM1, Bessell NJ, Bladon RA, Bamford JM.

Loss of regional accent after damage to the speech production network.

Berthier ML1, Dávila G2, Moreno-Torres I3, Beltrán-Corbellini Á1, Santana-Moreno D1, Roé-Vellvé N4, Thurnhofer-Hemsi K5, Torres-Prioris MJ1, Massone MI6, Ruiz-Cruces R1.