In addition to the information collected from the 475 subjects who participated in the scientific investigation conducted by Nick Davies and Emma Barratt, there have been two attempts to collate statistical data pertaining to the demographics, personal history, clinical conditions, and subjective experience of those who report susceptibility to ASMR.
In another study, detailed in a forthcoming paper, Smith and colleagues tested 290 people who experience ASMR for what are known as the Big Five personality traits, and compared their results to those of an equal number of “matched controls.” Smith and colleagues found that ASMRheads scored higher on measures for what’s known as “openness to experience” and neuroticism and lower for conscientiousness, extraversion and agreeableness—findings the researchers say warrant more study.
An article titled "An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)" by Stephen D. Smith, Beverley Katherine Fredborg, and Jennifer Kornelsen, looked at the default mode network (DMN) in individuals with ASMR. The study, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), concluded that there were significant differences in the DMN of individuals who have ASMR as compared to a control group without ASMR.
"Seven years later, ASMR is having a pop culture moment—even if many of those who use it don’t know what the acronym stands for. The phenomenon’s most popular practitioners have more than half a million subscribers, and the doyenne of ASMRrtists, Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR, has been so successful that she’s been able to quit her job to role-play soothing cosmetologists, librarians and flight attendants full-time. But what is ASMR? What function does it serve, who is drawn to it, and why? Or, as researcher Craig Richard puts it: 'Why are millions of people watching someone fold a napkin?'
Have you ever had a pleasing reaction to something but were unable to articulate how it makes you feel because it makes absolutely no sense? For example, I love the smell of freshly opened tennis balls. I am fully aware that the smell shouldn’t be great, it’s hardly enticing on paper. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s a musky, muddy, petroleum, rubbery odor. Sounds great, huh? Interestingly, there is a fraction of the population who, like me, loves this smell.
“When a newborn is born, the sensation that is the most developed and they receive the most information through is touch, and the one that’s least developed is sight,” he says. Parents show infants love most of all through touch, he argues—coddling, stroking—and all of this helps explain why ASMR is, at its best, an in-person experience with echoes of childhood experiences.
Okay, science may never explain the shoe thing. But scroll through these lists, and the array of triggers is largely consistent: classical music, haircuts, movie trailers, Bob Ross, more Bob Ross, lots of Bob Ross, the painter best known for his popular instructional videos. Forget the bucolic landscapes; these Ross fans are fixated on his calming baritone and the rustle of his brush on the canvas.
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.
The term ASMR was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, a 39-year-old penetration tester. “For years I thought, ‘Jeez, maybe I have a brain tumour or something,’” she recalls. From 1999 onwards, Allen searched steadfastly for others like her online. In the late noughties, she stumbled upon a SteadyHealth.com forum in which a user named okaywhatever51838 discussed a “weird sensation” that “feels good”.
As a penny slid across the concrete porch, it made a pleasant grating sound that, when combined with my uncle’s voice, produced the oddest sensations in me. I felt a “fuzzy” warm sensation inside my skull, as if my brain was floating in a container of heated seltzer water. As my uncle continued to count and slide the pennies, the warm feeling began to extend down my spine and arms. Soon, my entire upper body was cocooned in this warmth and tingling, and I could have listened to my uncle slowly count the pennies for the rest of my life. It was, and remains to this day, one of the most euphoric sensations I have ever experienced.
Lacy is no cliché pageant mum. Lounging on the sofa with wet hair and a grey T-shirt emblazoned with a peace sign, she sits back, scrolling on her phone, to let her child speak candidly. She does not push Makenna to answer in a favourable way, nor is she pushing her daughter into stardom in pursuit of fame or riches. “She makes significantly more money than I do and works significantly less than I do,” laughs Lacy, sitting with her legs tucked underneath her on the large brown suede sofa in the middle of the family’s modest apartment. “She doesn’t have to babysit or dog-sit or anything, so it works out good.” Makenna smiles shyly, showing off pink braces. “I do want to babysit though! I like kids.”
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.
For outsiders, ASMR has always been weird. “One thing that’s interesting about the ASMR experience is that it’s about close personal attention,” says Giulia Poerio, a psychology professor at the University of Sheffield who has undertaken multiple ASMR studies. Role-play videos thrive in the ASMR community – online, you can watch someone pretend to be your dentist, masseuse, or even a receptionist checking you into a hotel. “They’re basically a simulation of what would happen if you got ASMR in real life,” Poerio explains. “Multiple triggers are layered to get an effect.”
One part of that forage into “Deep Baby Brain” involves introducing you to ‘YouTuber’ CuteKid4950, and his tub of Strange Creatures goo. He starts off with the usual setup, doing his piece to camera before getting out the gunk. But then… things get weird. “Expanding upon the YouTube infotainment vlog format,” Drenge said, “CuteKid4950 takes us from kitchen to basement to warehouse to cave and emerges unscathed and enlightened. We can see the time and space properties of the real world crumble into insignificance. Unusual patterns emerge. Colours and shapes of forgotten solar systems reveal themselves amid the paint and the goo. This is more than something to keep you lightly amused. People will tell you that you are mad. They will try to denounce you. Ignore them. Let history be the judge.”
But it’s hard to follow hype. And though critics also loved Drenge’s 2015 followup, Undertow, they seemed to fall off my radar for a moment. In current music terms, four years is a long time away—which, of course, is hilarious, especially considering how much of that time they spent pouring their energy into touring. On Strange Creatures they’re more prone to flattening the reverby, more spaced-out vocals of Undertow, kicking the urgency back into their work. Now, their voices cut through more directly on tracks like opener “Bonfire for the City Boys” and as-yet unreleased track “Teenage Love.” They’re sounding both experimental and limbered up, ready to experiment—making a fake ASMR video shows, if nothing else, their playful streak.
Daniel and Prunkl keep a folder full of this man’s transgressions and have notified the local police. “Sometimes it scares me,” Daniel confesses, quieter now. “It does scare me that this guy could be anywhere.” Similarly, Makenna Kelly fears that kids at her bus stop will follow her home and leak her address online. “I just go down to the clubhouse and wait ten minutes just to make sure nobody knows where I live.”
Every Empath is different but I have not seen a common theme between all the ones I know. I myself have a really weird experience with this (as Empaths normally do with everything). I listen to ASMR every night for about 6 months with no reactions until one random day. Now I get it very occasionally with no pattern in sight. I do know Empaths who get it with basically every video they watch and some who just find the sounds of asmr creepy and do not get the tingle at all.
There are more of you! This is awesome. The only pattern I recognize that triggers my Asmr is that the person is usually a stranger. Sometimes but not always I am being taught or something is explained to me. People who don’t understand seem to think i am describing some form of attraction but that has nothing to do with asmr for me. I have actually been shocked by certain people that have triggered it. It’s definitely a “it takes two” thing for me. I have to be near the person. It’s almost like they are transferring something to me. Really weird to type asmr I have never been able to explain it to anyone and end up feeling a little crazy when I do try. I accidentally stumbled across this when trying to find this other sensation I have been getting for the last year or so when I’m tired. If I am relaxed watching tv/laying in bed and I hear an unexpected sound I get the half second electro type pulse/buzz in my head. It’s not painful but no enjoyable either. I get it a lot. Happens most when my phone dings from a text. Motion can trigger it as well but sound seems to trigger it more often. Anyone heard of Or experience anything like this?
This is Maria, a 28-year-old Russian expat in suburban Maryland, starring in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 7 million times. Hundreds of thousands of Maria’s devotees return again and again to listen to her hushed whispers as she assumes simulated roles — librarian, hairstylist, masseuse — and performs simple motions: folding towels, blowing smoke from an incense burner, flipping through the pages of a magazine.
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.