How does COVID-19 affect the central nervous system with regards to speech and language?

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Bottom Line:

The COVID-19 disease may be associated with unusual speech distortions leading to foreign accent syndrome.


Cotelli, M. S. et al. Effortful speech with distortion of prosody following SARS-Cov-2 infection. Neurological Sciences (2020).

Date Published:

19 July 2020


The COVID-19 infection has been reported to target the central nervous system, leading to the manifestations of several neurological symptoms. In this study, researchers described the case of a 48-year-old Caucasian woman who tested positive for COVID-19 that presented with speech disturbances along with fever, headache and pneumonia. Neurological examinations showed the development of altered speech patterns that differed from her native accent, resulting in the diagnosis of foreign accent syndrome (FAS). However, no brain lesions or other abnormalities were detected during neuroimaging, leading to the possibility of molecular rather than gross changes in the brain. FAS should be considered as a potential neurological phenomenon for the COVID-19 infection, though further studies will be required to elucidate its pathology and clinical significance.

Summary by: Edwin Wong