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.
Then, slime arrived. Personally, it’s a no from me, with its videos of hands plunging into the sticky depths of squelching, rainbow-colored goo or a sequin-stuffed mass that crackles as it’s manipulated. It looks good, sure, but slime doesn’t make a sound that in any way feels satisfying, calming or hypnotic, the way really good vocal ASMR does for me. And so maybe it’s just as well rowdy garage-rock group Drenge—brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless, who are joined live by bassist Rob Graham – have ripped the piss out of chirpy YouTubers in a new music video that’s all about slime. It’s… absurd, in a good way. Here’s a bit of what they had to say about it, in a sort of 700-word mission statement almost as batshit as the concept itself.
Well. I started getting ASMR or Empathic Enlightenment as I called it, since the late 70’s. At a family gathering in ’79, I spoke with an old hippie Artist, a Painter, a friend of my mothers, who told me it was “Enlightenment”. Empathy for a moment shared he said. He too, was inflicted with the ability, and spoke in a hushed tone about it, Bob Dylans “Hurricane” played in the background, as he told me about the metaphysical and artistic side of life. I never forgot that night, and “Hurricane” is still my favourite song.
Scientists don’t know enough about the phenomenon to know if everyone can become a tinglehead, or if only people who have brains wired a certain way can. In my personal experiences with ASMR, it happened most powerfully–but rarely–when talking to my uncle. However, I have also experienced less powerful ASMR episodes when getting a haircut, an eye exam, and occasionally when conversing with a significant other while we relaxed in bed.
I can trigger it at will, whenever I want with any kind of intensity as I please. I can concentrate the sensation in any place of my body, say tip of a single finger or my whole body. But, I want to know, is it wrong to abuse it? Or is it good? What can happen if I continue using it? By the way, I don’t need external stimuli to activate it, just the desire to do it, it’s like moving your hand.
I’ve had these triggers for years, going back to when I was around 8 years old. Years later, while watch Bob Ross, on PBS, I noticed that I fell asleep, and awoke 30 minutes later, totally relaxed. This happened with several other television shows as well as watching people involved in repetitive tasks, such as the lady at the gym, sweeping the floors or while having the hygienist clean my teeth. All I know is this: Whatever it is, it feels good in the back of my brain. This reminds me of my son’s study of binuarals-the constant tones, which, when experienced via headphones, causes different reactions, such as enhanced creativity or inner-peace. Perhaps those involved in Music Therapy will find this helpful in the treatment of their brain-injured patients. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was given music therapy as part of her rehabilitation. It’s nice to have the internet to share these things.
While the Ephemeral Rift YouTube channel features conventional relaxing videos like trees rusting in the wind or someone shuffling wooden blocks, Paul also experiments by playing characters like Dr. Lampert Schade, a psychiatrist with a lampshade on his head, and Corvus Clemmons, a plague doctor who wears a bird-like steampunk mask. All the videos feature soft soothing sounds and no sudden movements.
I’m a prematurely retired, disabled, UCLA med school trained pediatrician, due to a stroke and for me ASMR occurs only with music, but just what I call exquisite(level) music. Interestingly before my love for science, my first love was music, as an alto, tenor, and baritone sax player as a child. My experience is that it always is full body, at the onset, and sometimes is accompanied by a slight body warmth effect. It is always a very pleasant sensation, and does not always occur with these level of songs. Not maybe related, but I’ve become a sensation at party type celebrations, as people are amazed at my dancing skills without my quad cane, without much use of my limited right side of my body. They look at me in a crazed way when I tell them I really don’t consider it dancing, in the strictest sense, but it’s like the music and I are symbiotic, and I become the music so that my body just starts spontaneously moving in such a way they would not believe possible, with much improved balance, as people start to hoot, holler, clap and recording with their smart phones. I’m not putting on a show, just enjoying music at the highest level I know. I have always loved music intensely. Initially, I did what I call chair dancing, all upper body, for quite some time, after my stroke.
Even if the Internet has led researchers to the discovery of a previously unknown sensory phenomenon, there are still plenty of challenges ahead. There are many unanswered questions, like why only certain people experience ASMR, what percentage of the population they make up, and whether those who never have can be triggered to experience it. More immediately, there’s the ever-present challenge of getting funding to better understand an experience that still raises skepticism. Smith says that the term ASMR still “comes across as a little bit new-agey in the scientific world.”
It seems at the moment that the answer is no. Not everybody reports experiencing this sensation. Most people discover it by accident in their childhood, however some adults experience it for the first time. If you haven’t experienced ASMR before, it might just be that you haven’t found your personal triggers yet. Check out our article detailing the common triggers to see if any of them do it for you.
I have experienced this sensation for years and whenever I try to explain it to others they look at me as if I am strange. This happens to me every day when one particular delivery man comes to my office to bring parcels, he has such a quiet voice, and a slow methodical way about him. I wish he would stay longer so I could enjoy the sensation for longer !
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.”