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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 16, Issue 4, Pages 225-232

A Foreign Speech Accent in a Case of Conversion Disorder

Jo Verhoeven,1 Peter Mariën,2,3 Sebastiaan Engelborghs,3,4 Hugo D’Haenen,5 and Peter De Deyn3,4

1Department of Linguistics, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
2Department of Languages, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
3Department of Neurology, ZNA-Middelheim Hospital, Antwerp, Belgium
4Laboratory of Neurochemistry and Behaviour, Born-Bunge Foundation, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
5Department of Psychiatry, Academic Hospital, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

Received 17 February 2006; Accepted 17 February 2006

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective: The aim of this paper is to report the psychiatric, neuroradiological and linguistic characteristics in a native speaker of Dutch who developed speech symptoms which strongly resemble Foreign Accent Syndrome. Background: Foreign Accent Syndrome is a rare speech production disorder in which the speech of a patient is perceived as foreign by speakers of the same speech community. This syndrome is generally related to focal brain damage. Only in few reported cases the Foreign Accent Syndrome is assumed to be of psychogenic and/or psychotic origin. Method: In addition to clinical and neuroradiological examinations, an extensive test battery of standardized neuropsychological and neurolinguistic investigations was carried out. Two samples of the patient's spontaneous speech were analysed and compared to a 500,000-words reference corpus of 160 normal native speakers of Dutch. Results: The patient had a prominent French accent in her pronunciation of Dutch. This accent had persisted over the past eight years and has become progressively stronger. The foreign qualities of her speech did not only relate to pronunciation, but also to the lexicon, syntax and pragmatics. Structural as well as functional neuroimaging did not reveal evidence that could account for the behavioural symptoms. By contrast psychological investigations indicated conversion disorder. Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge this is the first reported case of a foreign accent like syndrome in conversion disorder.