I just discovered I was capable of triggering tingles on purpose this past month, after it popped into my head one day to seek out a video of a cat grooming itself (my trigger) to see if I could purposely trigger that weird relaxing feeling that I had experienced occasionally growing up, but had never really fully thought about. So that was pleasant. Then oddly enough a week ago I attempted to articulate this experience to a friend at a party (not knowing the term ASMR – nor even aware that it was a known thing, I simply described it as this peaceful, totally non-sexual, relaxed feeling I get from watching cats grooming themselves). Against all odds, this friend said, “oh, you’re probably experiencing ASMR – you should look it up.” Needless to say – it’s nice to find that indeed there’s an entire community of people online that have the same capability. Thought I’d share my experience and ask a couple questions.
Because this phenomenon was only recently given a name, the science backing it up is virtually nonexistent. Of the minimal research, one study published in PeerJ found that ASMR results in “temporary improvements in symptoms of depression and chronic pain,” while another study published in the International Journal of School & Educational Psychology determined that the phenomenon can soothe stress and help insomniacs. Basically, ASMR makes people happy and healthy.
Imaging subjects' brains with fMRI as they reported experiencing ASMR tingles suggests support for this hypothesis, because brain areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex (associated with social behaviors including grooming), and the secondary somatosensory cortex (associated with sensation of touch) were activated more strongly during tingle periods than control periods.
The majority of the ASMR community online is focused on ASMR videos. These are videos which are designed specifically for triggering people’s ASMR. They are often very relaxing, even if they don’t trigger your ASMR reaction. Most of the videos you will easily find on You Tube are what is called intentional ASMR videos, but there are also unintentional videos. Unintentional videos are videos that were originally made for another purpose but just happen to provide ASMR triggers for some people. Many ASMR video creators are expert at creating guided meditations, however production values vary greatly from video shot from iPhone cameras to complete 3D sounds and special effects.
The ASMR videos are easy to laugh at if you’re a casual observer–when I recently played one on my iPhone for guests at a dinner party, everyone cracked up within five seconds of watching the video. The videos usually include an attractive woman in a role-play scenario: She’s pretending to be an eye doctor, a makeup artist, or even checking hair for head lice. All videos are shot in first person, so the viewer appears to be alone in the room with the woman. And she’s usually whispering or speaking softly to you. It’s this combination of voice and the sounds from object interaction that the viewer hopes will trigger an ASMR experience.
The writing in this article helped me understand ASMR, but the videos don't seem to be the best examples (it doesn't help that these examples aren't very long). The best examples of what they are talking about to me would have to be the crackling of a fire. Also, whispering in my ear gives me intense tingles, but part of that may be the vibrations off of my ear drum.
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.
The story follows Tom More, a psychiatrist living in a dystopian future who develops a device called the Ontological Lapsometer that, when traced across the scalp of a patient, detects the neurochemical correlation to a range of disturbances. In the course of the novel, More admits that the 'mere application of his device' to a patient's body 'results in the partial relief of his symptoms'.