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.
The type of "bliss" I experience can most easily be experienced at train stations or airports, where lots of people move, though I wasn't open to this before practicing meditation, yoga and seva, so may take time to develop and is not an end goal in itself. End goal should be the journey, to make steps in the directions you truly desire and attract, compromising oneself a bit less.
A study done by Google, the parent company of YouTube states, ASMR videos are mostly watched by people between the ages of 18 and 24. Osbourn has noticed this trend and thinks there’s a correlation with mental health. “Our generation is more open to talking about mental health, we are so much more aware of ‘I’m struggling mentally, and I need help, and I’m going to find the help that I need,’ than any other generation, in my opinion,” she said.
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.
“The strongest type of tingle…feels like sparkles or little fireworks going off,” she says. “The strongest one would give you the feeling of being exhausted, pleasantly tired, satisfied almost you want to say. Then there are much less strong tingles, and they feel just pleasant. Almost like sand is being poured down your spine. [Or] like when you get the funny elbow, when you hit it and it feels like it just goes off everywhere.”
"ASMR is not as odd as it sounds," said Burnie Burns, co-founder and chief creative officer of production company Rooster Teeth. "In the 90s we had CDs and audio tapes of rain forest sounds that many people used for relaxation purposes -- there just wasn't a fancy term to classify that media. Since online video has become a phenomenon, now we have a whole new generation of those kinds of ephemeral experiences created by people all over the world."
Yet despite its challenges, further research into ASMR comes with the tantalizing potential of helping us better understand of the brain. For psychologists, it could also help enhance treatment plans for anxiety and depression, at least for some people. More poetically, it might help us understand how people feel loved. “But mainly,” says Smith, “it’s just cool.”
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.
I first got the tingles (as I called them) at seven years of age, I would be sitting with a friend, or alone, listening to the radio, drawing, talking, suddenly everything gets hushed, quite, talk is low, personal, close. To me, it feels like Empathy Overload! Deep feelings of shared tragedy, celebration or experience, in song, speech or shared moments of complete silence. But it’s empathy operating at a very high level, that’s what I feel. A deep understanding of the law and order of… everything,
^ Smith, Stephen; Fredborg, Beverley Katherine; Kornelsen, Jennifer (14 August 2015). "An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)". Social Neuroscience. 12 (4): 361–365. doi:10.1080/17470919.2016.1188851. PMID 27196787. In the current study, the default mode network (DMN) of 11 individuals with ASMR was contrasted to that of 11 matched controls.
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.”
Smith speculates that ASMR may be similar to synesthesia, the fascinating neurological condition in which people see numbers in color and “taste” shapes. “In synesthesia,” he says, “there have been some studies that show there’s slightly atypical wiring in the brain that leads to slightly different sensory associations, and I think that may be the same thing we have here.”
Given that ASMR is open to misunderstanding and misconceptions, a healthy dose of scepticism is important for future research in the area. Anecdotally, the Sheffield group point out that some ASMR enthusiasts use the videos therapeutically, to help with symptoms of insomnia, anxiety or depression. This is echoed in the findings from Barratt and Davis’s survey; their data showed that, for people who scored as having moderate to severe depression, 69% reported using ASMR videos to help ease their symptoms, and generally reported a greater improvement in mood than individuals who were not depressed. But these are self-report measures, and further work needs to be done to pinpoint to what extent there may be an actual therapeutic effect.
I’m not really sure if I have ASMR or not – I literally discovered it was an actual thing a few minutes ago – but I am very sensitive to sounds. Certain chord progressions or note progressions in songs, and other sounds like people eating watermelon give me the tingling feeling described. But I also get the opposite. For some reason, certain sounds make me feel queasy and sick (like the sound of someone pulling a string through their fingers). Is this ASMR, or related? Or if it’s not, does anyone know what that is?
The demand for Maria's videos is so great that she's one of a handful of people who have quit their day jobs to pursue creating ASMR-inducing videos full-time. Gentle Whispering ASMR has more than 872,000 subscribers, and her top five videos alone have amassed more than 47 million views. While she won't disclose how much she's making, she noted it's enough for her to have a "comfortable living," but she's more attracted to the fact she's giving people a way to de-stress than the money.
I didn’t even know this had a name! I have always been able to induce the feeling by focusing my attention on the base of my skull and letting the energy run. I have always enjoyed the feeling, but experience it as voluntary and not cultivated by sensory/cognitive experiences. Is this strange or are other folks eliciting this feeling when desired as well?
So. I found out about this roughly… an hour ago. And holy… what an hour it’s been. I didn’t even know I could feel this type of stuff (although for most it seems to be in their head/scalp/neck etc, for me, it’s in my chest.). My biggest trigger seem to be taps… from the crisp tap to a low thump. One thing I am noticing though, is how many girls do the videos (I can understand this, as a female voice generally has a more relaxing effect.) but I was wondering how many people prefer a male voice? Any preference to accents, etc.
“We talked to her about how it’s good today but might be gone tomorrow,” Lacy says. With YouTube’s new, stricter regulations, child ASMRtists may be replaced by an as-yet-unknown breed of internet celebrity. Desireé Hunnicutt, for instance, is hoping that Aoki’s early start on YouTube will allow her to start a business. “I believe in Aoki figuring out what it is that she wants to do in life even early on and I hope it actually helps her,” she says.
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.
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.
“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.”
ASMR is usually precipitated by stimuli referred to as 'triggers'. ASMR triggers, which are most commonly auditory and visual, may be encountered through the interpersonal interactions of daily life. Additionally, ASMR is often triggered by exposure to specific audio and video. Such media may be specially made with the specific purpose of triggering ASMR or originally created for other purposes and later discovered to be effective as a trigger of the experience.