Background: Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a rare speech disorder characterized by the appearance of a new accent, different from the speaker's native language and perceived as foreign by the speaker and the listener. In most of the reported cases, FAS follows stroke but has also been found following traumatic brain injury, cerebral haemorrhage and multiple sclerosis. In very few cases, FAS was reported in patients presenting with psychiatric disorders but the link between this condition and FAS was confirmed in only one case.
Case presentation: In this report, we present the case of FG, a bipolar patient presenting with language disorders characterized by a foreign accent and agrammatism, initially categorized as being of psychogenic origin. The patient had an extensive neuropsychological and language evaluation as well as brain imaging exams. In addition to FAS and agrammatism, FG also showed a working memory deficit and executive dysfunction. Moreover, these clinical signs were related to altered cerebral activity on an FDG-PET scan that showed diffuse hypometabolism in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes bilaterally as well as a focal deficit in the area of the anterior left temporal lobe. When compared to the MRI, these deficits were related to asymmetric atrophy, which was retrospectively seen in the left temporal and frontal opercular/insular region without a focal lesion.
Discussion: To our knowledge, FG is the first case of FAS imaged with an 18F-FDG-PET scan. The nature and type of neuropsychological and linguistic deficits, supported by neuroimaging data, exclude a neurotoxic or neurodegenerative origin for this patient's clinical manifestations. For similar reasons, a psychogenic etiology is also highly improbable.
Conclusion: To account for the FAS and agrammatism in FG, various explanations have been ruled out. Because of the focal deficit seen on the brain imaging, involving the left insular and anterior temporal cortex, two brain regions frequently involved in aphasic syndrome but also in FAS, a cerebrovascular origin must be considered the best explanation to account for FG's language deficits.