It seems bizarre that people would spend any amount of time watching a person play with what amounts to DIY Play-Doh, but these videos are hugely popular—and it may have something to do with a phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). The condition usually causes a relaxing tingling in a person’s scalp and the back of their neck, and can extend into the rest of the body in response to particular sounds, smells, or visuals, according to the ASMR Lab.

The burgeoning Internet phenomenon was so new, it didn’t even have a name. It was so strange and hard to describe that many people felt creepy trying. It resided at the outer edge of respectability: a growing collection of YouTube videos featuring people doing quiet, methodical activities like whispering, turning magazine pages and tapping their fingers. Some viewers reported that these videos could elicit the most pleasurable sensations: a tingling feeling at the scalp and spine, coupled with euphoria and an almost trance-like relaxation.


I had an abnormal psychology professor in undergrad that would have me drooling by the end of class because her voice was so “soothing”. Lately, I have found that instructional videos via Youtube do the trick. I’m embarrassed to say, but I watched a video of some random guy giving a tutorial on how to properly clean out your ear for roughly a year (lol). I can watch nearly anything instructional to induce the sensation, but I am drawn to videos in which the narrator has an accent.
Plus, it’s logistically difficult to study a phenomenon that requires quiet and prefers solitude. As Smith points out, fMRI machines are noisy and EEG tests (which Smith’s team also tried) involve attaching “goop and sensors” to the scalp, potentially interfering with the ability to feel tingles. As Smith puts it, “the tools we have are not relaxing.”
Ally Maque is an ASMR YouTuber (ASMRrequests), who makes her living making videos. She once heard from parents of a young boy who suffered frequent horrible migraines. “They said that a series of videos I did, where I read fairy tales from a bedtime story book—whenever they’d put those videos on for their child when he was suffering, it would help,” Maque told Newsweek. “That one brought me to tears.”
The 21-year-old woman behind ASMR Darling, a YouTube channel with more than two million subscribers, said she goes only by her first name, Taylor, because she has experienced stalking and a public doxxing that made her fear for her safety. She said she made her first video when she was a teenager. “Being that young and being sexualized like that, it wasn’t a good confidence boost,” she said.

I've been aware of the ASMR feeling since about always, but I really thought it was something everyone got. As common as breathing, so it never occurred to me to speak about it until recently when I gave my sister a few links that made me feel these triggers and she felt nothing or was even greatly annoyed... then I came across reading about it and realized, not all people get it. (They're totally missing it, I like it a lot!)


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.
In 2012, Steven Novella, a neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine wrote a blog post about ASMR, asking “the most basic question—is it real? In this case I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is… It’s similar to migraine headaches—we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.” He goes on to speculate as to what ASMR could be—possibly small seizures, or “just a way of activating the pleasure response.”
I wonder if I have this ASMR thing too. The only thing that I don’t have in common like the rest, is audio. I only get this feeling, this “head-orgasm feeling,” when someone or something touches, like a kitten’s whiskers, a feather or someone’s hand, the side of my temples or near my ears. This feeling is very difficult to describe. When this happens I automatically close my eyes, I smile involuntarily and I get this tingling sensation all over my head. It’s a really good feeling too. Also, I’m not sure if it goes through the rest of my body like the rest of you, because I guess I’m feeling this sensation and I’m unaware of it. I remember when I was little I would get this feeling when I would play with a cat and they would head-bud my face and this feeling happened. I wasn’t sure what it was and was afraid that someone would see me making my face doing the “involuntarily closing my eyes and smiling” thing. So, I try to snap out of it as fast as I could… my question is, is this the same thing? Do I have ASMR?
When she first felt it, she had no idea what it was. In kindergarten in central Russia, Maria and her friends would sometimes tickle each other gently, running their fingers over the skin of their forearms. For Maria, the experience was transcendent, sending a cascade of goosebumps over her head and down her back: “I would be left in a zombie-like state,” she says. “I would just be so relaxed.”

Some ASMR video creators use binaural recording techniques to simulate the acoustics of a three-dimensional environment, reported to elicit in viewers and listeners the experience of being in close proximity to actor and vocalist.[33] Binaural recordings are usually made using two microphones, just like stereo recordings. However, in binaural recordings the two microphones tend to be more specially designed to mimic ears on humans. In many cases, microphones are separated the same distance as ears are on humans, and microphones are surrounded by ear-shaped cups to get similar reverb as human ears.
I have a question about my own experience with ASMR. I do not have any of the common triggers that are mentioned here. Mine seems more cognitive than anything else. When I fully express a thought with someone who is deeply engaged in the conversation and they agree with me or give me some sign that they understand, I get an intense tingle in my head and scalp. I think its very odd, but I enjoy it and I think it has reinforced my ability and preference for good conversation. I am just curious if anyone else experiences anything remotely similar to this and if you have found anything else that goes along with it. Thanks!

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
wow. I never knew what that feeling was called until now. I’ve kept it to myself all of these years because I was never sure how to talk about it. I discovered mine in kindergarten when a girl traced her finger along a page. I can experience ASMR pretty much whenever I want now. for me, it’s a combination of sound and motion. for some reason, an Indian accent triggers it very easily. it’s an amazing feeling. I’m curious, does anyone know if there are any health pros or cons with ASMR? have any studies been done?
I would spend all Friday, Saturday drawing outlines with my 3 best friends, discussing art, colour and symmetry for hours, then spend all Saturday night bombing trains, painting together would activate it intensely, in the dark, spooky and exhilarating all at the same time, while four kids spent their weekends silently breaking the law to paint Top-to-Bottom Wholecars just for art’s sake)
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

This is Maria, a 28-year-old Russian expat in suburban Maryland, starring in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 7 million times. Hundreds of thousands of Maria’s devotees return again and again to listen to her hushed whispers as she assumes simulated roles — librarian, hairstylist, masseuse — and performs simple motions: folding towels, blowing smoke from an incense burner, flipping through the pages of a magazine.
Emotionally, Kelly and Daniel seem equipped to deal with this backlash (Aoki Hunnicutt remains blissfully unaware of any negativity, and also much else about YouTube fame – at one point during our interview, she asks with concern, “Mummy, I thought we were going to do an interview?”). Yet while they are fine with their fame, it may trouble the young stars to lose it.
“The reason people can get tingles and feel relaxed and comforted listening to Maria GentleWhispering is because she’s acting very much the way a parent would care for you,” he says, “with the caring glances, gentle speech and soothing hand movements. And a lot of the time she’s doing simulated touching. It’s pattern recognition. Our brains recognize the pattern of someone with a caring glance, someone with a gentle whisper, and we find that comforting.”
I would spend all Friday, Saturday drawing outlines with my 3 best friends, discussing art, colour and symmetry for hours, then spend all Saturday night bombing trains, painting together would activate it intensely, in the dark, spooky and exhilarating all at the same time, while four kids spent their weekends silently breaking the law to paint Top-to-Bottom Wholecars just for art’s sake)
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.
<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!
There’s been suspicion that ASMR is a sexual pursuit, fueled by the fact that many ASMRtists are attractive young women and that cleavage is not exactly foreign to the medium. The comments beneath videos routinely make much of the ASMRtists’ attractiveness, and terms like “braingasms” and “whisper porn” are often bandied about. But in the Swansea study, only 5 percent of respondents reported using it for sexual stimulation. Granted, this is self-reported data, but the results must be vindicating to ASMRheads who find themselves battling unsavory rumors about their nighttime video-watching habits.

I am 69 female and have gotten a tingling in scalp in certain situations since I was a child. Just love it although it doesn't happen as often as when I was younger. Unfortunately, none of the videos did it for me and I don't ever remember seeing any youtube, etc that did it. Has to be real life. Someone comes to vacuum my office once a week. I get the tinglin feeling every time she's there. Of course, someone combing or styling my hair does it (more likely to happen if it's random and informal vs a haircut at the salon). Or someone giving me instructions and showing me how to do something (a simple, physical task) will trigger it. I try to hold onto it but it is so often too fleeting a sensation.
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?”
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.)
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 am in my early 30’s and have experienced this feeling since I was very young. I never understood it, but always loved it. It was my “special feeling” I’ve only just looked it up online and found this. You sum it up so well. I love make up tutorials on youtube, where they are talking to you but working with their hands and sometimes it’s the “click” of something…like when they are putting things away but not rushing….its that sound that also brings it out in me. I have it at work quite often, when someone is showing me something and its the click of the pen, or the keyboard that sets it off. It’s an amazing feeling and I love having it, never ever thought it was a “real” thing!

The story follows Tom More, a psychiatrist living in a dystopian future who develops a device called the Ontological Lapsometer that, when traced across the scalp of a patient, detects the neurochemical correlation to a range of disturbances. In the course of the novel, More admits that the 'mere application of his device' to a patient's body 'results in the partial relief of his symptoms'.[20]
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