Migraine leaves Chatham woman with foreign accent

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Media captionJulie Matthias: "It has just turned my life upside down."

A woman from Kent has been left speaking in different foreign accents following a severe migraine.

Julie Matthias, 49, who runs a hairdressing salon in Chatham, has been diagnosed with foreign accent syndrome.

Her accent is regularly mistaken for being South African, French or Italian and she has even suffered racism.

She developed the condition after suffering a severe migraine in 2011 and has other stroke-like symptoms such as right-side weakness.

'Constellation of symptoms'

She said: "It has just turned my life upside down. It is devastating. You feel on your own and cut off from the rest of society."

The mother-of-two said she had suffered racism from someone who did not believe she was from the Medway towns.

She has also been accused of making the whole condition up and been sent to a psychiatrist, she said.

Sophie Scott, professor of cognitive neuro-science at University College, London, said. "Foreign accent syndrome has not been reported very often and there have been a handful of cases over the past 50 or 60 years.

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Media captionProfessor Sophie Scott: "Foreign accent is normally associated with quite small amounts of brain damage."

"It is being reported more commonly now, I think that is because we simply know more about it and recognise what it is when someone comes into the clinic and has this constellation of symptoms."

She said the syndrome was associated with people who have quite small amounts of brain damage.

Mrs Matthias' daughters often have to get her out of bed, shower her and wash her hair.

Her daughter Danielle, said: "It is very upsetting to see her, especially on her bad days, especially when you are used to having grown up with her being so strong and independent."

Mrs Matthias has now been referred to a new specialist and along with 60 fellow sufferers from around the world she has contributed to a book for the medical profession explaining what it is like to suffer from Foreign Accent Syndrome.

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