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UCF clinic diagnoses rare Foreign Accent Syndrome

CLARIFICATION: In a news release sent Tuesday, Nov. 18, the patient diagnosed with Foreign Accent Syndrome was identified as Tiffany Noell. The University of Central Florida learned late Tuesday night that the patient, whose legal name is Judi Roberts, has used the pseudonym Noell for a few years to protect her family from being embarrassed. She has been treated under this name and is in the process of making it her legal name but has not yet submitted the paperwork.

ORLANDO, Nov. 19, 2003 - A University of Central Florida speech expert has diagnosed an extremely rare disorder in a Sarasota woman that caused her to speak with a British accent after she suffered a stroke.

The case of Foreign Accent Syndrome - a disorder linked to stroke-related or other internal brain injuries that leaves affected people with a foreign-sounding accent - is one of fewer than 20 reported worldwide since 1919, according to Jack Ryalls, professor of communicative disorders at UCF.

In November 1999, 57-year-old Judi Roberts of Sarasota suffered a stroke that left the right side of her body paralyzed. She was also unable to speak. After months of physical therapy, she was no longer paralyzed and was able to speak with some difficulty. Her speech gradually improved during the next year until she was speaking with the same fluency as she had before the stroke. However, instead of the familiar New York accent she once had, she spoke with a British accent.

Roberts had never traveled to Britain. She didn't recognize her own voice. Her friends and family didn't understand it, and strangers constantly asked her where she was from. One doctor told her she was not working hard enough to get her old voice back.

"At times I thought I was losing my mind," Roberts said. "Without the support of my internist and therapist, I wouldn't have been able to cope."

This year, four years after her stroke, she received an e-mail from a friend who fo
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Contact: Tom Evelyn
tevelyn@mail.ucf.edu
407-823-5988
University of Central Florida
18-Nov-2003


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