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Scientists reveal why American man with prostate cancer developed ‘uncontrolled’ Irish accent


Stock image Photo: Jeff Moore/PA Wire

Stock image Photo: Jeff Moore/PA Wire

Stock image Photo: Jeff Moore/PA Wire

An American man developed an “uncontrollable” Irish brogue after his prostate cancer surgery despite never having visited Ireland, a new case study reveals.

The 50-year-old man from North Carolina, who had metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, showed symptoms consistent with foreign accent syndrome (FAS), according to a recent study in the British Medical Journal.

“He had no neurological examination abnormalities, psychiatric history or MRI of the brain abnormalities at symptom onset,” said researchers, including those from Duke University.

FAS is a speech disorder that causes a sudden change to a person’s speech patterns, with previous studies finding it to be a condition linked to brain damage, such as following a stroke.

Since the first-ever diagnosis of the condition in 1907, there have so far been over 110 known cases of the syndrome across the world.

Earlier research has also documented the peculiar accent change syndrome to be linked to breast cancer and brain cancer, as well as with psychiatric conditions like mania and bipolar disorder.

Scientists said the syndrome may be the result of changes to the structure of the brain from cancer tumours or encephalitis.

The new research marks the first reported instance of a person developing FAS linked to a prostate cancer diagnosis.

While the 50-year-old lived in England in his 20s and had friends from Ireland, the case study mentions that he had reportedly never spoken with the Irish accent.

“His accent was uncontrollable, present in all settings and gradually became persistent” until his death, researchers wrote in the study.

Scientists suspect the patient‘s voice change was likely due to paraneoplastic neurological disorder (PND) – a condition in which a cancer patient’s immune system attacks their nervous system, including parts of the spinal cord, nerves and muscles.

“His presentation was most consistent with an underlying PND,” they said.

“Despite chemotherapy, his neuroendocrine prostate cancer progressed resulting in multifocal brain metastases and a likely paraneoplastic ascending paralysis leading to his death.”

In some patients, researchers have documented unusual effects on their peace of mind because of FAS.

For instance, Norwegian neurologist Monrad-Krohn described in 1947 a patient who received a serious head injury during the Second World War and began speaking Norwegian with a German foreign accent.

The young woman with the condition was refused service by local shops in Norway as people thought she was a German spy.

In 2016, a Texan woman was diagnosed with FAS when she started speaking in a British accent after an operation on her jaw.

In another instance from 2018, an American woman who suffered from severe migraines, was diagnosed with FAS.

The former beauty queen reportedly spoke in a British accent despite never having left the US.

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