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.
Another unanswered question: why do some people experience ASMR while others don't? "The simplest answer is a genetic difference," says Richard. In the same way that some people dislike cilantro or have a high tolerance for alcohol, genetics could affect how sensitive someone is to the neurochemicals produced during ASMR. "The ability to experience ASMR could also be influenced by lifetime experiences, diet, medications, and many other factors," he says. "It's clear that researchers still have a lot to figure out."
Let’s clarify something right off the bat: medically, it is not recommended that you eat chalk. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, swallowing large quantities of chalk can cause abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, and also shortness of breath and coughing. Eating chalk should not kill you, because it’s not toxic, but it’s not safe.
Hearing a bedtime story may still lull you to sleep, but it might help more if the reader whispers it. Or if they gently tap their foot, or just shuffle papers around for a few minutes. Confused? There's a growing subculture of insomnia- and anxiety-plagued people who find solace in these kinds of repetitive sounds, a relaxation phenomenon known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). (This magical GIF can also help reduce anxiety, stat.)

But the phenomenon has nonetheless burst into the mainstream, thanks to mounting media coverage and a few high-profile references: “Saturday Night Live” alum Molly Shannon gushed to Conan O’Brien about her “head orgasms,” induced by the methodical touch of airport security pat-downs; novelist Andrea Seigel shared her experience with ASMR on the radio program “This American Life” last year; the “Dr. Oz” show has featured ASMR videos as a way to ease insomnia.
Allen verified in a 2016 interview that she purposely selected these terms because they were more objective, comfortable, and clinical than alternative terms for the sensation.[10] Allen explained she selected the word meridian to replace the word orgasm due to its meaning of point or period of greatest prosperity.[clarification needed][citation needed]
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