What is Fluent Accent Syndrome?

James Kim, Staff Writer

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Comas are seen as scary, life-threatening moments. However, in one situation, it has given the victim a new ability.

Reuben Nsemoh was a 16-year-old sophomore from Atlanta who suffered a concussion while playing soccer. He went into a coma and after he woke up, he became fluent in speaking Spanish. It was known that he did know some Spanish before suffering the concussion, but he never spoke it fluently. His fluency in Spanish is slowly fading, but his fluency in English is starting to come back.
This is an example of Fluent Accent Syndrome, a rare condition in which brain injuries change a person’s speech patterns, giving them a different accent. This first happened in 1941 when a Norwegian woman suffered an injury and started to fluently speak German. Another example occurred in 2013 when an unconscious Navy veteran woke up and started to only speak Swedish. In Australia, a bus driver got into an accident and started to speak with a French accent. In 2016, a Texas woman had surgery on her jaw and spoke with a British accent.
Dr. Karen Croot, an expert in fluent accent syndrome, said, “It’s an impairment of motor control. Speech is one of the most complicated things we do, and there are a lot of brain centers involved in coordinating a lot of moving parts. If one or more of them are damaged, that can affect the timing, melody, and tension of their speech.”
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