Texas Woman Returns Home From Jaw Surgery With British Accent: What Causes 'Foreign Accent Syndrome'?


Lisa Alamia was born and raised in Texas, but those who do not know her and meet her for the first time may suspect she's from somewhere else based on how she speaks.

Not that she is used talking in foreign language or accent. She has actually only started speaking with British accent after a surgery.

Six months ago, Alamia underwent a jaw surgery to correct an overbite, but she went home with a condition known as foreign accent syndrome.

Her surgeon initially thought the way she talked was just a physical result of her surgery and that it would eventually disappear as she healed, but she has been speaking with a British accent since.

"My husband told me I was talking funny," said Alamia. "My surgeon thought it was just a physical result of the surgery and that it would go away as I healed."

Foreign accent syndrome affected less than 100 people worldwide over the past century. It is such a rare condition that many neurologists do not think it is a real condition, said Toby Yaltho, a neurologist from the Houston Methodist Sugar Land Neurology Associates.

The condition is often caused by brain damage from traumatic brain injury or stroke, which alters a person's speech patterns and gives him or her a different accent.

The condition is also linked with multiple sclerosis and other health issues albeit in some cases. Just as with Alamia, there is no clear cause.

Yaltho gave Alamia a neurological exam and determined that she did not suffer from stroke or brain injury. She did not also appear to have suffered from any complication from her surgery.

Foreign accent syndrome expert Karen Croot said that the condition is not a communication impairment because affected individuals can make themselves understood by others perfectly well, but it can have psychological impact to those affected, which is just what happened with Alamia.

Alamia feared that people would not believe her and even started a speech therapy to get her old voice back. She had concerns that people might think she is lying.

Fortunately, she eventually realized that her new accent does not define her. While her speech therapy has helped a little, she said she is fine now even if her old Texas accent no longer returns.

"I've worked very hard these six months to get it where it is now, so I'm thinking, hopefully, in another six months maybe I'll have it back," Alamia said. "If not, then I'm completely comfortable staying how I am."

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