In an era where social media fails to provide its users with a feeling of personal connection, ASMR steps in to bridge the gap. "The number one thing that we need as human beings an attachment. That's what it’s all about. We want to attach, we don't want to feel alone or isolated. Our body does that for us. So, when we feel good, we feel close, and we feel attached. So that's what the videos are tapping into on some level," she explained.
Over at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., Craig Richard, a professor of biopharmaceutical sciences, runs the clearinghouse website ASMR University, where he interviews people who’ve studied the phenomenon and blogs about ASMR in the news. Richard himself reports experiencing ASMR; nevertheless, he says scientific skepticism is warranted until more studies are published. To that end, Richard and two other researchers, Allen and a graduate student, have been conducting an online survey that he says so far includes 20,000 people across over 100 countries, almost all of them “tingleheads.”
ASMR is a relatively new phenomenon sweeping the audiophile community. Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) affects millions of people, and even more, may not realize there is a name to their feelings. Those who experience ASMR have different reactions to a variety of types of sounds, all positive. Some feel tingly, some sleepy, and most feel relaxed. The types of sounds include whispering, tapping, crackling, touching, and popping, as well as many more.

"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."
From my experience with ASMR videos in the last three weeks, I’ve never had one trigger the kind of episode I had with my uncle. However, that doesn’t mean the ASMR videos had no benefits. The biggest, I’ve found, is that the right ASMR video works like a charm in sending me to sleep. In fact, ASMR videos seem to be better at sending me to sleep than most sleep hypnosis videos I’ve found.

Understandably, considering the whispering, and the intimacy, and the term “brain orgasms,” ASMR can seem at first blush like a fetish of some kind. The ASMR subreddit clarifies: “This is sometimes referred to as head orgasms, but this is about as sexual as saying eating chocolate is orgasmic (in that it's not sexual).” And while they may exist, none of the many videos I’ve watched in the course of reporting this article have had any sexual content.
Beauty products, in fact, play a starring role in the trend. Makeup tutorials have long been popular on YouTube, but after viewers realized how relaxing they were, many tutorials now double as ASMR videos. Some creators take the role-play approach, simulating the feeling of being in a makeup artist's chair, while others use makeup brushes to create soothing noises. Search for "ASMR nails," and you'll see many creators showing off their manicures as they make tapping and scratching sounds. Even Michelle Phan—the queen of beauty herself, with 8.6 million subscribers and counting—has created an ASMR video.
“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.”
Last year, Rooster Teeth released the documentary "The World's Greatest Head Massage: An ASMR Journey," where filmmakers traveled to Pushkar, India to find Baba the Cosmic Barber. Unbeknownst to Baba, he had become a YouTube sensation after people had been uploading videos of his "cosmic energy" shaves and head massage techniques. Baba has since created his own YouTube channel, ASMR Barber, to take advantage of his popularity.

“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.”
"As ASMR has started to come to mainstream attention, researchers have finally begun trying to answer that question. Neuroscientists are now experimenting with fMRIs and electroencephalography to see if the brains of 'tingleheads,' as they are called, are any different than those who don’t tremble at the sight of napkin-folding. They’ve also surveyed tens of thousands of people who say they experience the phenomenon. So far there are intriguing—if limited—findings suggesting that ASMR may relieve some people’s symptoms of stress and insomnia, and that the brains of those who experience it may be organized a little differently."
There are two ways that people can experience ASMR. You can experience it through simple meditation or just thinking about a scene or sound that pleases you. Or you can experience it through watching a video or listening to a recording. As for the mechanisms at work behind ASMR, nobody is quite sure why some people react the way that they do. It could be that the videos remind you of your childhood (perhaps, for example, you watched your mom do the same action as a kid, so it’s comforting) or that the simple sounds lull you into a relaxed state. Ready to give ASMR a try? Find some videos on the YouTube channel for GentleWhispering, ASMR University, and ASMRlab.

“One of our main aims is to try to draw attention to ASMR as a topic worthy (and capable) of scientific research, in the hope that it might galvanise future research efforts,” they explain. Of the group, three of them (Emma, Giulia and Tom) experience ASMR, whereas Theresa doesn’t. The study is still in an early stage – data collection has just finished – but this diversity in experience, they believe, is a critical component to their research. “So we starting thinking about how we might first and foremost investigate this phenomenon at the most basic level: what might it take to convince someone who doesn’t experience ASMR that it is a genuine and consistent experience for some people?” they explain. “Theresa doesn’t experience ASMR, and has valuable scepticism of the experience. It adds to the diversity of our research group and the questioning of our approach from a non-ASMR perspective,” they add.


Another article, "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state", by Nick Davis and Emma Barratt, lecturer and post-graduate researcher respectively in the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, was published in PeerJ. This article aimed to 'describe the sensations associated with ASMR, explore the ways in which it is typically induced in capable individuals ... to provide further thoughts on where this sensation may fit into current knowledge on atypical perceptual experiences ... and to explore the extent to which engagement with ASMR may ease symptoms of depression and chronic pain'[4] The paper was based on a study of 245 men, 222 women, and 8 individuals of non-binary gender, aged from 18 to 54 years, all of whom had experienced ASMR, and regularly consumed ASMR media, from which the authors concluded and suggested that 'given the reported benefits of ASMR in improving mood and pain symptoms...ASMR warrants further investigation as a potential therapeutic measure similar to that of meditation and mindfulness.'
Most importantly for Hunnicutt, Aoki seems to love making videos. Like most five-year-olds, she loves trying on her mother’s lipsticks, but unlike most five-year-olds, Aoki was encouraged to rummage in her mum’s make-up bag – and a camera captured the results. “I put all the lipstick on!” Aoki grins, explaining this video was her favourite to make.
"ASMR videos tend to have low production costs, but have a massive replay-ability factor," Burns explained. "'Baba the Cosmic Barber's original head massage video has almost 10,000,000 views. Many of those views come from people who probably watch it several times a week to fall asleep. Ten million views is incredible for a video that costs less than fifty dollars to make."
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.
<3 I heard about ASMR a few months ago, and was amazed to learn that only a certain group of people got the head tingles hehe. Whenever I was younger, I would always make my mom braid my hair or brush it, because it would always give me the best shivers. Same with getting a haircut, or going for a doctors appointment. I always assumed it was normal to have those sensations, and that everybody got them. Turns out I was wrong!
Richard suggests that the “extreme relaxation” of ASMR may be the mirror image of panic attacks, residing at the far end of the relaxation spectrum. If, as his data so far shows, three-quarters of his subjects use ASMR videos to help them sleep, a third say the videos help them “feel less sad,” and smaller percentages use the videos to deal with diagnosed anxiety disorders and depression, ASMR could one day have therapeutic applications, he argues.

It turns out I had experienced my first incident of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), though I would not find that out until earlier this year when I researched hypnosis videos on YouTube that supposedly help you sleep better. ASMR isn’t a phenomenon confirmed by science, and it’s only in recent years, after people across the world began to report their ASMR experiences on the web, that scientists have even started to study it.
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)
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR, is a curious phenomenon. Those who experience it often characterise it as a tingling sensation in the back of the head or neck, or another part of the body, in response to some sort of sensory stimulus. That stimulus could be anything, but over the past few years, a subculture has developed around YouTube videos, and their growing popularity was the focus of a video posted on the Guardian this last week. It’s well worth a watch, but I couldn’t help but feel it would have been a bit more interesting if there had been some scientific background in it. The trouble is, there isn’t actually much research on ASMR out there.
In an era where social media fails to provide its users with a feeling of personal connection, ASMR steps in to bridge the gap. "The number one thing that we need as human beings an attachment. That's what it’s all about. We want to attach, we don't want to feel alone or isolated. Our body does that for us. So, when we feel good, we feel close, and we feel attached. So that's what the videos are tapping into on some level," she explained.
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.
I get this response, but I don't always like the feeling. If someone pulls down a projector screen, like those found in classrooms, i get a tingling sensation all over my body but I don't associate it with a pleasurable feeling. It's almost like nails on a chalkboard. I feel the same way about listening to a violin. The whispering though is a pleasurable ASMR response for me.
The pennies from the jar were spread flat between us on the concrete. With each penny my uncle helped me count, he would say the numbers out loud and gently slide the penny across the concrete to the “counted” pile with his thick index finger. My uncle was a giant of a man: 6-foot-4 and almost 400 pounds, with a naturally gruff voice. He was also a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, and because of his condition and the medication he took to treat it, he spoke slowly, stretching out most words in deep, gentle tones.
The contemporary history of ASMR began on 19 October 2007 on a discussion forum for health-related subjects at a website called Steady Health.[22] A 21-year-old registered user with the handle "okaywhatever" submitted a post describing having experienced a specific sensation since childhood, comparable to that stimulated by tracing fingers along the skin, yet often triggered by seemingly random and unrelated non-haptic events, such as "watching a puppet show" or "being read a story".[23]
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