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.
“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.
Nothing can currently be definitively known about any evolutionary origins for ASMR since the perceptual phenomenon itself has yet to be clearly identified as having biological correlations. Even so, a significant majority of descriptions of ASMR by those who experience it compare the sensation to that precipitated by receipt of tender physical touch, providing examples such as having their hair cut or combed. This has led to the conjecture that ASMR might be related to the act of grooming.
As for what can trigger episodes in people, it almost always involves close interaction with another person. Usually, that other person is speaking to you in soft or deep tones, and always kindly. There’s usually also a component of adjacent sound coming from an inanimate object that, in conjunction with a person’s voice, helps trigger the episode. This can be the sound of scissor blades scraping together during a haircut, the sound of someone turning magazine pages, or, in my case, the sound of pennies sliding across concrete.
I can trigger my ASMR at any time and it helps me gather my thoughts and calm down easily. It is weird to do, I have just recently found out about it and I was really strange knowing that not everyone could just do it anytime, sometimes or not at all so this is so strange before I found this out I thought I was just giving my self goosebumps just without the bumps so those are my feelings I just had to get out of my system.
I myself never knew what ASMR was until later in life and to be honest I cannot say that I really remember feeling the tingles when I was younger. I found out about ASMR through videos of people doing hair and makeup tutorials. This has been about 1 year ago and since then I have fell in love the ideas of what goes on in the neural levels of ASMR interactions. Please feel free to visit my blog to learn more about what I would like to accomplish with ASMR and cognitive behavioral therapy! http://hncarter.weebly.com/blog
The first study to perform actual brain imaging (fMRI) on subjects currently experiencing ASMR tingles (as opposed to individuals who were merely able to experience the phenomenon) was published in BioImpacts in September 2018. Subjects viewed several ASMR videos with a screen and headphones while inside the MRI scanner. The study found a significant difference in brain activation between time periods when the subject reported tingling (communicated by pressing a button), as compared to time periods when they were watching a video but not reporting tingling (communicated by pressing a different button, to control for brain activation effects caused by merely pressing a button). They concluded that "the brain regions found most active during the tingling sensations were the nucleus accumbens, mPFC, insula and secondary somatosensory cortex", and suggested that these were similar to "activation of brain regions previously observed during experiences like social bonding and musical frisson".
Finally something to explain my “photocopier man” feeling which has been a standard joke in our family. I first discovered this feeling when I was a teenager working in an office where a repair man would come regularly to maintain the photocopier and I would experience this sensation of well-being while he was working. It was in a fairly small office and usually he would clean the screen with an acetone base cleaner so I always thought that the fumes from that created a mini “high”. I have had it at various times usually when there is someone repairing something in the office eg putting data cables, fixing sockets etc. I now work in a research lab and have had it when participants are in another room being tested with senors on their heads and I have no visual or auditory input from them just the sense of them being there. I have had it to a lesser extent from acupuncture and find massage of any kind extremely unpleasant. It’s nice to find out that it’s not just me that has this strange feeling for no apparent reason.
Of course, when I go looking for it, these things won't give me shivers but it's very calming and pleasurable. There are also other singers and bands like Digital Daggers, Kanon Wakeshima, Lacey Sturm, etc., that could give you shivers and such. Also I like to listen to classical type music, music boxes, pianos, violins, soundtracks, like fantasy type music composed by people like Peter Gundry, a very famous violinist named Lindsey Stirling, soundtracks from RWBY or Vampire Knight, etc. These may not actually be asmr but it could be very shiver inducing and pleasurable.
Replies to this post indicated that a significant number of other people had experienced the sensation which "okaywhatever" described - also in response to witnessing mundane events. The interchanges precipitated the formation of a number of web-based locations intended to facilitate further discussion and analysis of the phenomenon for which there were plentiful anecdotal accounts, yet no consensus-agreed name nor any scientific data or explanation.