Over the past few years, videos like this have exploded in popularity on the platform. Millions are tuning in to watch strangers whisper into their microphones, tap their fingernails, fold napkins, or roleplay as a comforting nurse—all to help viewers experience a tingling, relaxing feeling known as autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. It may seem bizarre and uncomfortably intimate and maybe even a little creepy the first time you watch an ASMR video, but the creators behind these videos have a truly benevolent intent: to help their views relax, fall asleep, and find relief from the stress of their everyday lives.
If you don't like any of these, there are lots of other options. The top YouTube “ASMRtists,” like ASMR Darling and Gibi ASMR, have over a million subscribers and hundreds of videos each. You can also explore “unintentional ASMR:” content not created with tingles in mind, but that just so happens to promote them. (Painter Bob Ross has a cult ASMR following).
Being only thirteen, a new year at school always brings the excitement that I might get a teacher with one of those perfectly soft ASMR-y voices. I've only had one, but luckily I had her for two grades (grade two and three) she came from Ireland, but didn't have too strong of an accent, just enough that it would always relax me. Dang I miss that class... LOL.
My sensations occur randomly and normally while I am sitting at the computer browsing the net, reading email, or playing my favorite games. I have not noticed a specific trigger and therefore have become concerned that it might be symptomatic of an underlying medical disorder… pending heart attack, diabetic neuropathy or a sinus irritation. I finally chose the correct key words to get Google to lead me here. I just downloaded the book so haven’t read it yet.
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".
The most popular source of stimuli reported by subjects to be effective in triggering ASMR is video. Videos reported being effective in triggering ASMR fall into two categories, identified and named by the community as 'Intentional' and 'Unintentional'. Intentional media is created by those known within the community as 'ASMRtists' with the purpose of triggering ASMR in viewers and listeners. Unintentional media is that made for other purposes, often before attention was drawn to the phenomenon in 2007, but which some subjects discover to be effective in triggering ASMR. One early unintentional example is the Art Bears song 'The Bath of Stars.' Another example of unintentional media several journalists have noted is of famed painter Bob Ross. In episodes of his popular television series The Joy of Painting both broadcast and on YouTube, his soft, gentle speaking mannerisms and the sound of him painting and his tools trigger the effect on many of his viewers. The work of stop-motion filmmaker PES is also often noted.
Daniel and Prunkl keep a folder full of this man’s transgressions and have notified the local police. “Sometimes it scares me,” Daniel confesses, quieter now. “It does scare me that this guy could be anywhere.” Similarly, Makenna Kelly fears that kids at her bus stop will follow her home and leak her address online. “I just go down to the clubhouse and wait ten minutes just to make sure nobody knows where I live.”
I’ve had these triggers for years, going back to when I was around 8 years old. Years later, while watch Bob Ross, on PBS, I noticed that I fell asleep, and awoke 30 minutes later, totally relaxed. This happened with several other television shows as well as watching people involved in repetitive tasks, such as the lady at the gym, sweeping the floors or while having the hygienist clean my teeth. All I know is this: Whatever it is, it feels good in the back of my brain. This reminds me of my son’s study of binuarals-the constant tones, which, when experienced via headphones, causes different reactions, such as enhanced creativity or inner-peace. Perhaps those involved in Music Therapy will find this helpful in the treatment of their brain-injured patients. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was given music therapy as part of her rehabilitation. It’s nice to have the internet to share these things.
Aside from the pleasurable sensation that ASMR offers there are a range of other benefits. Many intentional ASMR videos are essentially forms of guided meditations, meditating regularly has been shown to reduce stress levels and aid concentration among many other things. For a lot of people ASMR is a gateway to developing an ongoing meditative practice.
“I just tried it because I thought it would help out my channel and it did, yeah,” Kelly says of her honeycomb video. When she started her channel in March 2018, Kelly made more traditional YouTube videos – filming herself applying make-up and eating different foreign snacks. “It was exciting,” she says of going viral, “because I was like, this could actually be my dream, I’ve always wanted a lot of subscribers.”
I am intrigued by how vast the ASMR community seems to be. I have strange tingling sensations on the top of my head, so I typed this in to google and ASMR info appeared. On all the different sites and notice boards etc. I have not seen a description however that matches my trigger so I think I might be experiencing something slightly different. My sensations are triggered by people next to me sleeping and beginning to dream. I get the tingle and then become aware that the person is twitching the way people do when they dream. It has happened to me with my boyfriend a lot, my sister once when we had to share a bed. It also happened with a complete stranger next to me on a plane and even once with my cat when he was dreaming. It’s not an unpleasant sensation but I wouldn’t say it was the ecstatic sensory experience that others have described. It has also happened in a more everyday waking experience way, when I worked with a young man with autism who was verbalising in a way that wasn’t clear communicative speech but rather jumbly kind of talk. I am interested if anyone else has had a similar experience to this. Thanks
ASMR, or “autonomous sensory meridian response,” is the term for the sensation people get when they watch stimulating videos such as this one. Many people describe the feeling as “tingles” (or “head orgasms“) that run through the back of the head, neck, and, spine. For some, the feeling is deeply relaxing and can even cause them to fall asleep. This is definitely not something I experienced.
Ahuja alleges that through the character of Tom More, as depicted in Love in the Ruins, Percy 'displays an intuitive understanding of the diagnostic act as a form of therapy unto itself'. Ahuja asks whether similarly, the receipt of simulated personal clinical attention by an actor in an ASMR video might afford the listener and viewer some relief.