As for what can trigger episodes in people, it almost always involves close interaction with another person. Usually, that other person is speaking to you in soft or deep tones, and always kindly. There’s usually also a component of adjacent sound coming from an inanimate object that, in conjunction with a person’s voice, helps trigger the episode. This can be the sound of scissor blades scraping together during a haircut, the sound of someone turning magazine pages, or, in my case, the sound of pennies sliding across concrete.
It can often just start with a softly breathed “hellohellohello.” By now, if you’ve got a favourite genre of ASMR content, you probably know what it is. I still have to google what ASMR stands for (Autonomous sensory meridian response—why can I never remember this?) but spend about half of my working day listening to Korean women or Spanish men whispering and tapping cardboard boxes anyway. Look, it helps me concentrate. These are the basics: ASMR makes your body and brain tingle, in a way that is not sexual and not weird. It’s sort of like a massage coming from inside your head, through sound. Those sounds can be anything from light stroking (shout out to Tenaqui using acrylic nails on an eyeshadow palette), to brushing straight fine hair, crunching on fried chicken skin, whispering about crystals, literally saying “sksksk” and rubbing your fingers together real fast like you’re trying to get rid of stray cat hairs.
I’m not really sure if I have ASMR or not – I literally discovered it was an actual thing a few minutes ago – but I am very sensitive to sounds. Certain chord progressions or note progressions in songs, and other sounds like people eating watermelon give me the tingling feeling described. But I also get the opposite. For some reason, certain sounds make me feel queasy and sick (like the sound of someone pulling a string through their fingers). Is this ASMR, or related? Or if it’s not, does anyone know what that is?
In the limited, small studies that have been done investigating ASMR, there do appear to be brain abnormalities in people who experience ASMR, though this is far from confirmed. But some studies did find that people who experience the phenomenon appear to have brains that are wired differently when it comes to the areas that react to sensory perception. Instead of two sensory areas having a clear connection in their brain, a tinglehead’s sensory areas of the brain appear to blend together to some degree. Some neurologists who have studied the phenomena even think ASMR could be related to the bizarre condition of synesthesia, where a person can hear smells or see music.
So if you’re looking for a natural way to fall asleep quickly, I’d really recommend trying some ASMR videos on YouTube. Get in bed and put on a good pair of headphones (noise-canceling if you have them) and watch one of the videos in this article on your smartphone or tablet. By the time the video ends, you might be ready to drift into sleep. There have been plenty of times that I haven’t even been able to make it halfway through one of these videos before I needed to put my phone down and shut my eyes.
I experience both asmr and frisson so I am familiar with both. They are similar in that they both cause a tingling sensation. Asmr is triggered mainly by physical senses (sight, sound, sometimes smell) and produces a relaxing effect. Like you literally can fall asleep from it. Frisson is triggered by thought and emotion and produces an exciting effect.
I have had ASMR for as long as I can remember, but had no idea it was actually a recognised thing! I only get mine from for example; someone looking through my makeup bag, or using something of mine, anything that is gentle and concentrated (if that makes sense) I watch ASMR videos which are makeup tutorials or spa role plays – they are amazing for relaxation and sleep.
The study is still ongoing, and results have not yet been published. But for his part, Richard has been developing a theory of what ASMR is and why it exists. His theory isn't exactly scientific, but it is beautiful: He notes that the quality that underlies almost all ASMR videos is what’s been called a “tranquil, womb-like intimacy.” That is, ASMRtists speak softly into the ears of headphone-wearing viewers, gently coaxing them to sleep by way of assiduous personal attention, comforting words, smiles and simulated stroking. At its most essential level, Richard believes, all the intimacy channeled through towel foldings and whispered affection is about triggering the felt experience of being loved.
This image from video provided by Michelob shows a frame from their 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. The ad features the actress Zoe Kravitz using techniques for autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. It is described as a tingly euphoric response, usually starting on the head and scalp, and sometimes spreading down the neck, arms or back. (Michelob ULTRA via AP)
While little scientific research has been conducted into potential neurobiological correlates to the perceptual phenomenon known as 'autonomous sensory meridian response' (ASMR), with a consequent dearth of data with which to either explain or refute its physical nature, there is voluminous anecdotal literature comprising personal commentary and intimate disclosure of subjective experiences distributed across forums, blogs, and YouTube comments by hundreds of thousands of people. Within this literature, in addition to the original consensus that ASMR is euphoric but non-sexual in nature, a further point of continued majority agreement within the community of those who experience it is that they fall into two broad categories of subjects.
I have been experiencing “ASMR” for as long as I can remember. Of course there are certain natural physical or visual triggers, but for me the trigger is a little more esoteric. It can happen at anytime and I generally connect to cognitive thought. I had no idea it had a name. When i am in meditation and i feel a connection with the divine (higher self, whatever anyone chooses to call it) it comes on as a full body buzz. I generally associate it with being aligned to something and getting a thumbs up, or green light to proceed. The absence of ASMR indicates a thumbs down for me, or a red light. So i guess you could say it is a tool of intuition for me. For example, i will have an ASMR top left quadrant of head, within a moment i will hear from someone i have been thinking about or not thinking about. In the beginning it would present only at the top of my crown, now it can originate at forehead or temporal lobes, base of head, etc. i had no idea it had a name until i stumbled on a you tube video and googled ASMR.bdoes anyone else associate it with something non-linear?
“Our research studies consistently show that ASMR is a relaxing, calming sensation that increases feelings of social connectedness,” Giulia Poerio (a co-author of the study), told Newsweek. “Importantly, we found that ASMR videos produce significant reductions in heart rate in people who experience ASMR. So we now have more objective evidence of the idea that ASMR is relaxing. It’s not just people telling us that ASMR makes them feel relaxed—their physiology is telling us the same thing too.”
“I don’t think enough is done,” Fleck says. “This little girl was wearing sweatshirts with her school’s name on them, you have the danger of being doxxed, people finding out where you are.” Thankfully, Fleck feels the ASMR community look out for each other. “It’s just a little difficult because other than reaching out to get YouTube to do something, we’re kind of powerless.”
However, Tony Ro, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in an email that the University of Winnipeg study “is unfortunately not as revealing or informative as it could have been,” given its small size and the fact that researchers were measuring subjects at rest, rather than while experiencing ASMR. The resting state differences could be due to other factors, like higher rates of anxiety or depression, he says. Still, writes Ro, who researches synesthesia and has also been intrigued by ASMR for a few years, “I do think that ASMR may be a form of synesthesia.”
"We believe technology presents great opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively and access useful information, but we also know we have a responsibility to protect young creators and families and consider the potential impact of emerging trends on them. We've been working with experts to update our enforcement guidelines for reviewers to remove ASMR videos featuring minors engaged in more intimate or inappropriate acts. We are working alongside experts to make sure we are protecting young creators while also allowing ASMR content that connects creators and viewers in positive ways."
Nothing can currently be definitively known about any evolutionary origins for ASMR since the perceptual phenomenon itself has yet to be clearly identified as having biological correlations. Even so, a significant majority of descriptions of ASMR by those who experience it compare the sensation to that precipitated by receipt of tender physical touch, providing examples such as having their hair cut or combed. This has led to the conjecture that ASMR might be related to the act of grooming.