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?”
ASMR has also been called a "brain orgasm" because of gratification it can give viewers, but for the majority of people, there's no sexual connection. A study in PeerJ published in March 2015 found that 98 percent of the 475 study participants used it for relaxation, with 82 percent using it to help them sleep and 70 percent for stress relief. Only 5 percent used it for sexual stimulation, with the vast majority saying it brought no sexual pleasure.
"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."
Kelly knows that she inspires other kids to take up ASMR – children at school ask for advice on how to make popular YouTube videos. At one football game recently, kids swamped Kelly for photos. “It was like… crazy,” Kelly whispers dramatically. “I went with friends and we walked past this group of cheerleaders and they all got quiet. They came up one after another and were like, ‘Let’s take a picture.’”
Coming onto this page, I was hoping for a few good videos to bring on the shivers, but unfortunately, Ol' Bob Ross was the only successful one. I did enjoy that fountain pen and the tea making video though. Made me kinda drowsy aha. I don't know about you, but my ultimate asmr triggers, are soft spoken role-plays, especially when the person has an accent. Videos of head massages are also fantastic whenever I want some tingles :) You should check some of them out.
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?”
The left side of Makenna Kelly’s bedroom is just like any other child’s. Her silver and white bedspread matches a feature wall, she has a dresser with her own TV and her nickname – “Kenna” – is spelled out in wooden letters above the window. On the right side of her room, however, things are less ordinary. There are three professional studio lights and a tripod, a silver plaque congratulating her on 100,000 YouTube subscribers and a framed letter from Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO. Sellotaped on the closet door is the fan mail.

I’m not sure how to say this, but I’ll try. I think this experience is a spiritual one. I get the impression that when we appreciate something so simple and quiet this pleases God. It’s our own willingness to accept such “insignificant” events and appreciate the beauty of things which would otherwise be discarded in our noisy and materialistic lives. The appreciation of “small” things, be it sounds, sensations, smells which would otherwise be ignored really pleases our Creator, these sensations are a gift, a “thank you” for appreciating the wonder of nature and creation in all its beauty, especially the seemingly insignifcant moments and events in time ignored and forgotten by mankind…


He posted earlier this year on the ASMR subreddit, calling for volunteers, and completed the study in May. First, he looked at how ASMR videos affected "normal people"—18 Dartmouth undergrads. "In the second study we selected only people we knew could reliably experience and report ASMR," he says. "For this we used 10 subjects, most of whom were people from the subreddit who could commute to Hanover, New Hampshire. In this second study we asked the participants to bring in videos that they knew would trigger their ASMR. They then watched the videos in an MRI, while indicating periods of ASMR with a button press."
“If you can’t experience it you’re gonna either think it’s weird or you’re gonna think it’s creepy,” Hunnicutt says. Aoki – now playing with her toys in the corner of the room – thinks aloud. “IT’S NOT CREEPY!” she shouts emphatically (although it’s worth noting that with her childish rhotacism, it comes out as “cweepy”). Like many ASMRtists, she notes that these videos help people with insomnia, PTSD and stress. “I mean there’s always some weirdos in the world, but you can’t stop helping others just because there are those people.”
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.

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.”
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”.
What caught their attention was the brain’s “default mode network,” which Smith describes as “a lot of structures along the midline of the brain,” as well as parts of the parietal lobes above the backs of the ears. “The activity of these areas tend to fluctuate together, so we assume that they work together as a network,” Smith says. The default mode network is “most apparent” when a subject is awake and at rest, and is often associated with internal thoughts and mind wandering. In a scanner, the default mode network typically shows up as certain areas of the brain “lighting up” at the same time. But the brains of subjects who experienced ASMR looked different.
“People asked for really weird things,” she explains, “like tapping on a TV or playing with string.” For instance, one stranger paid Kelly $50 (about £38) to film herself eating cookies and milk. In an 11-minute video, Kelly tapped on the biscuits with her vibrant pink fingernails before biting into them and slurping them down with a jar of milk. More than 300,000 people watched that video.
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”.

ASMR doesn’t work for everyone and it can be tough to imagine the sensation if you don’t experience it first-hand. For most people who do experience it, the blissful tingling starts up in the scalp and then makes its way through the body to the arms and legs. And as a result, it can trigger a feeling of relaxation before bedtime, which can help you overcome insomnia. The audio/video segments are long—in fact, some last up to an hour. They are lengthy so that you can keep watching or listening to them until you drift off.
I accidentally clicked on a youtube makeup review video not knowing what ASMR was. They were unboxing some beauty purchase and I thought they'd show the product but there was all this scratching awfulness. I downvote rarely but it was so deeply unpleasant. There were other videos with ASMR in the title and I clicked on a few - same thing. Spine-tingling, hair raising allright but for me it's so so unpleasant. Am I the only one? I literally feel pained by some of it! And the ones where the ladies whisper to be soothing I suppose but what's most salient to me are the lip smacking type of sounds that are just one step below someone eating slurpy and annoying. I hate hate hate the sounds of people's lip smacking type sounds as they speak. I was baffled that this ASMR was apparently a pleasurable thing for people based on there being channels devoted to it whereas I could tolerate only a few seconds of each, no more than 20-30 seconds that is if I forced myself to see if it turned into a better experience somehow. No no no... I feel at best mild disgust and at worst like someone is sending electric shocks through my spine. Then I looked it up and I see and "get" what it's supposed to be, but I just can't experience it as a positive thing and I can't expose myself to more of it as it's just subjectively awful for me! Am I alone? Are there people who hate this stuff? Perhaps this has to do with my sensory sensitivity? I have neuropathic pain, which messed up a lot of touch sensation for me so I thought maybe that is why. But thinking back, even before I got the neuropathy, I didn't like to be touched much, I would feel pain during massages that others seemed to enjoy, and for as long as I remember since childhood I had an area on my scalp down near the nape of my neck, that if touched directly (e.g., scalp massage) or indirectly (e.g., during haircuts) would send an unpleasant shiver down my back all the way to my pelvic bone in the back. I always tried to suppress reacting to these but would then avoid massages and would hold on to my chair when that area was stimulated during haircuts (and eventually started cutting my own hair). I have always hated smacking lip sounds - I can't eat if someone is eating loud and lose attention if someone is talking with lip sounds. I have sensory sensitivities such that I cannot stand fluorescent lights, and even incandescent bright lights and need to be in soft lighting. I also cannot tolerate noise or strong odors at all. So it would seem like I am the type of person who needs the soothing types of sensory experiences others seem to get from ASMR. I need soft, soothing sensory environment or else I have increased anxiety, tension and my chronic pain gets worse. I would seem like I would benefit from something like ASMR in theory, but paradoxically, everything I have tried to expose myself to so far that was called ASMR, I couldn't stop fast enough. They were not simply not pleasant but I found them clearly aversive - deeply uncomfortable and like nails on chalkboard awful in some cases. I have studied neuroscience, psychiatry and neurobiology, obtaining a PhD and have over a decade working in neuropsychology. Trying to guess why I am having no lu: nck with ASMR - in fact, having completely the opposite response! - I considered the following: I have autism in my family, mostly high functining but this is also often associated with sensory sensitivities. While I do not have ASD diagnosis, I score rather high on autism scales, mainly on sensory sensitivities and systemising approach dimensions (and not on social dimensions). I am very intrigued by this unexpectedly negative response I have to these and wondering if this is something that is also found and if so, what is known about it.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a calming, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation. This tingle is said to originate in a person’s head and spread to the spine (and sometimes the limbs) in response to stimulation. The stimuli that trigger ASMR vary from person to person. Some of the most common ones include whispers, white noise, lip smacking, having a person’s complete attention (as in having one’s hair cut by a hairdresser), as well as brushing, chewing, tapping, scratching, whispering, and crinkling.
Among the category of intentional ASMR videos that simulate the provision of personal attention is a subcategory of those specifically depicting the "ASMRtist" providing clinical or medical services, including routine general medical examinations. The creators of these videos make no claims to the reality of what is depicted, and the viewer is intended to be aware that they are watching and listening to a simulation, performed by an actor. Nonetheless, many subjects attribute therapeutic outcomes to these and other categories of intentional ASMR videos, and there are voluminous anecdotal reports of their effectiveness in inducing sleep for those susceptible to insomnia, and assuaging a range of symptoms including those associated with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.[17][18][19]
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