Disease of the Week


The human brain is a really weird thing:

In November 1999, 57-year-old Judi Roberts of Sarasota suffered a stroke that left the right side of her body paralyzed. She was also unable to speak. After months of physical therapy, she was no longer paralyzed and was able to speak with some difficulty. Her speech gradually improved during the next year until she was speaking with the same fluency as she had before the stroke. However, instead of the familiar New York accent she once had, she spoke with a British accent.

Turns out she had Foreign Accent Syndrome, a "disorder linked to stroke-related or other internal brain injuries that leaves affected people with a foreign-sounding accent." Fewer than 20 cases have been reported since 1919.

The whole strange story is here. And just in case you're thinking this is a hoax, there's more info here and here. Did I mention that the brain is a really weird thing?


NEXT: Don't Poison My Blood

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  1. Has Madonna been tested?

  2. good thing her husband didn’t try to kill her

  3. this is stranger than chagas?

  4. That happened to my ferret.

  5. It would suck if you ended up with a bad chinese or indian accent. Then everyone would think you’re making fun of people.

  6. In other news, having low self esteem can shrink your brain by 20%


  7. If the brain were not a strange thing there would be a lot fewer comments on Hit & Run.

  8. Perhaps she’s a spy and reverted back to her natural pattern of speech? Kinda sounds like something that would happen in an “Alias” episode.

  9. Wow, I wish my stroke had given me a british accent. All I got was this lousy vietnamese prostitute’s accent. Me sucky sucky rong time!

  10. When I smoke a strong bowl, my voice switches to lower East L.A., man.

  11. “She suffered greatly from some particularly unsympathetic people who did not understand her changed voice,” Ryalls said.”

    What the hell is going on here? She’s ostracized because she has the wrong kind of accent? What kind of horrible people would act that way? Someone has a stroke, they’re mute for a while… eventually they can speak again… who cares what they sound like?, it’s a miracle they’re intelligible at all. Of course, everyone would probably think that way on their own… but, as they say, a person is smart, people are stupid.

  12. I wonder if everyone sounds British, or if British stroke victims sound American.

    Egad, imagine someone having to live in London and sounding like they came from Mississippi, or Fargo.

  13. If scientists learn how to cure this, do you suppose they could also develop pills to induce new accents — then make millions selling them to actors?

    (File that one under “ideas for bad science-fiction stories”…)

  14. Imagine a FOX news anchor having a minor stroke and waking up, speaking with a French accent.

  15. Jesse,

    SF author Larry Niven already used almost that same idea more than 30 years ago in his 1971 short story “Rammer” (expanded a few years later into the novel “A World Out of Time“). So-called “memory RNA” injections played a key role in how the main characters learned skills (such as speaking a foreign language or piloting a star ship). Although perhaps a little dated now, it wasn’t a “bad” SF story by any stretch of the imagination.

  16. And I think “learning pills” were a plot point in one of the Oz books as well. But I don’t think any of these tales tied the idea to Foreign Accent Syndrome…

  17. This isn’t Foreign Language syndrome, but I read an article in Harper’s (I think) a few years back about people who go to ‘the Holy lands’ to visit and have psychotic episodes wherein they imagine themselves to be Biblical characters for days, weeks, sometimes months at a time. The doctors at the hospital in Jerusalem have become quite adept at treating these people, according to the article. Most of the people are successfully treated and go home without any further problems of that kind.

  18. Jesse – read “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat”

  19. Anyone ever woke up speaking Klingon or Huttese?

  20. I would like to wake up and speak like Jean Bart, er . . . the Merovingian.

  21. kestkasay

  22. “Anyone ever woke up speaking Klingon or Huttese?”

    I did once, but it put me back to sleep.

  23. I don’t care what anybody says that is some freaky shit! I think what might have happenned is when the people are injured they really die and reincarnation starts, kind of like what happens in Down To Earth with Chris Rock!Most of the injuries are ones that people rarely survive. Maybe these people didn’t surviv either. I mean just think about it and really put some thought into it! I don’t mean to make the victims feel bad. All I am doing is stating my opinion. God Bless to all the victims, but ever sense I have come familiar with this disease it has never left my mind.

  24. Once again this is Monnie.

    I don’t mean to shake anybody up as bad as I am. I first witnessed it on Maury. All the victims seem like totally different people.

    Read my above article with your thinking caps on! If you don’t want to give it any thought then…. Hey I can’t make you!
    What do I know, I’m only 13 but I’m a strong beleiver in God!

  25. i actually have an older friend of mine i work with that had a stroke here recently who now speaks in a jamaican accent. it really does happen and this is not a woman who lives or has ever visited anywhere else ,but here in louisiana.

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