Migraines changing a person’s accent?

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September 18, 2013

It almost sounds like a hoax: ‘British woman has a migraine, and after passing out, wakes up with a French accent!‘  If you suffer with migraines and wonder if this could happen to you, don’t worry.  It is highly improbable. 

Dallas migraineurs, you too can  rest assured that your headaches will not likely lead to this complex neurological condition.  After all, according to this news story in the British Daily Mail only 61 cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) have been documented.   It has been known to spontaneously develop in people who experience a stroke or head trauma and, in at least 2 cases, as a consequence of severe migraines. 

Symptoms include speaking in one’s native language, but with a foreign accent.  Scientists have explained that what listeners think is a foreign accent, is in fact a speech impediment caused by neurological brain damage. 

According to the story, earlier this month Britain’s BBC aired a documentary about Sarah Colwill who is afflicted with FAS and her struggle to carry on with her life despite the peculiar disabilities she copes with every day.  The 38-year-old awoke on a March morning during 2010 with a Chinese accent, following a severe migraine. 

This has befuddled her doctors and to this day nobody can figure out exactly what happened or whether there is any hope of reversing the condition.  She experiences about 10 migraines each month, and doctors believe FAS is somehow linked with these headaches.

The documentary entitled The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese, hints at something humorous but is in fact a very tragic story.  Imagine passing out with pain from your migraine in Nashville, Tennessee, only to wake up sounding like you are from Sweden? Or what if your migraine in Dallas sent you to the emergency room in pain, only to check out of the hospital without your southern drawl but with a Scottish brogue instead? 

Losing one’s identity, and ability to communicate clearly is a terrifying thought for anyone.  But fortunately, as the documentary and news story reported, it is very rare indeed. 


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