In the first peer-reviewed article on ASMR, published in Perspectives in Biology in summer 2013, Nitin Ahuja, who was at the time of publication a medical resident at the University of Virginia, invited conjecture on whether the receipt of simulated medical attention might have some tangible therapeutic value for the recipient, comparing the purported positive outcome of clinical role play ASMR videos with the themes of the novel Love in the Ruins by author and physician Walker Percy, published in 1971.
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.
A smaller, more recent study offers a hint as to where ASMR research might go. Last year, psychology professor Stephen Smith and two colleagues at the University of Winnipeg put 22 subjects into fMRI scanners. Half were people who reported experiencing ASMR, and half were controls. Because the researchers did not know if they could reliably trigger tingles inside noisy fMRI machines—they tried this approach, and subjects seemed to have trouble relaxing—they scanned the resting states of 22 brains as the subjects simply lay there, to see if there were any differences between the two.
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.
Same. I tend to do round scratches with my hand at the top of the head crown to intensify the tingles. And like one dude (https://www.reddit.com/r/asmr/comments/3lrmyx/question_what_exactly_is_the_brain_orgasm_of_asmr/), my toes curl and eyes roll up. Rubbing hands, palms and inner wrist to be exact, against something or against each other. Same with feet.
What is ASMR? For a trend so wildly popular, you probably haven’t heard of it. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it’s a strange recent phenomenon. We all find certain sounds mentally and physically stimulating—some things send a shiver down our spines, create a sensation in the back of our heads. ASMR is a type of sensory stimulus that helps you to relax! In fact, there’s an entire section of Youtube videos and sound creation that is meant to help people feel good.
I have had ASMR for as long as I can remember, but had no idea it was actually a recognised thing! I only get mine from for example; someone looking through my makeup bag, or using something of mine, anything that is gentle and concentrated (if that makes sense) I watch ASMR videos which are makeup tutorials or spa role plays – they are amazing for relaxation and sleep.
The most popular stuff discussed amongst ASMR community is whispering and tapping – and I get it a bit from that – but one thing is, I know that when the person is addressing me (or the camera as it may be), that seems to dispel ASMR for me. In fact, I’d say a pre-req for me to ASMR is that I am in the role of passive observer – perhaps that speaks to my personality? I know I have introverted tendencies. That leads me to the first of my questions:
My main trigger is watching someone concentrating silently on a mundane task (writing, drawing, ironing, cleaning, doing a puzzle) and them not being aware that I am aware of what they are doing. I also find sometimes that having a haircut can produce the same sensation. I also find that the feeling can sometimes be accentuated by gently rubbing the back of my neck with something like a pen or the end of my glasses. I haven’t yet found a video that works as a trigger – it needs to be there for real and even then doesn’t and won’t happen “on demand”.
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.
As awareness of the ASMR phenomenon has gone more mainstream in recent years thanks to the internet, videos and entire channels dedicated to ASMR began to appear on YouTube, which is how I discovered the experience I had with my uncle had a name. It’s through these videos that both people who have had ASMR episodes in the past and tinglehead wannabes hope to replicate the experience.
Barratt and Davis don’t see their study as a complete story; rather, it’s a foot in the door for researchers interested in studying the phenomenon. “We hope our work will provide a platform for more sophisticated work in the future, but we saw it as a starting point,” explains Davis. The next step, ideally, is to start trying to pin down the physiological basis of the sensation.
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’m slightly late to the asmr party – only just found out about it – and am still in disbelief.. Like a lot of people on here I’ve had it since childhood and thought I was the only person in the world who had it! Most intensely with dentists (talking to their assistants), school nurse inspections and air hostess safety demonstrations – the obvious ones let’s say – but also to a lesser degree with nature documentaries from the 1970s (British Columbia Forest documentaries) and the Open University (in the UK) course module videos, also from the 70s. Both of which featured fairly spaced out electronic music and softly spoken boffins..
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.
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.
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.”
She has invested in her craft, upgrading to top-notch binaural microphones that carry every exhale into a listener’s ears as if Maria is standing beside them. Her videos, like most ASMR recordings, are undeniably intimate. But the intended response — although often described as “brain orgasms” — is not sexual, ASMR enthusiasts insist. (Unsurprisingly, a few of the creepier online comments insist otherwise.)
I got the tingling effect from the Ikea fire video, right at the parts where progress is seen being made towards a fire (The smoke being produced, the ashes, the smolders to the fire itself) and it is an incredible experience. I've also definitely had this experience before with haircuts, although I rather enjoy my hair long so it's a rarity that I get to feel it so often.
While little scientific research has been conducted into potential neurobiological correlates to the perceptual phenomenon known as 'autonomous sensory meridian response' (ASMR), with a consequent dearth of data with which to either explain or refute its physical nature, there is voluminous anecdotal literature comprising personal commentary and intimate disclosure of subjective experiences distributed across forums, blogs, and YouTube comments by hundreds of thousands of people. Within this literature, in addition to the original consensus that ASMR is euphoric but non-sexual in nature, a further point of continued majority agreement within the community of those who experience it is that they fall into two broad categories of subjects.