Well. I started getting ASMR or Empathic Enlightenment as I called it, since the late 70’s. At a family gathering in ’79, I spoke with an old hippie Artist, a Painter, a friend of my mothers, who told me it was “Enlightenment”. Empathy for a moment shared he said. He too, was inflicted with the ability, and spoke in a hushed tone about it, Bob Dylans “Hurricane” played in the background, as he told me about the metaphysical and artistic side of life. I never forgot that night, and “Hurricane” is still my favourite song.
Have you ever felt a static-like or tingling sensation on the top of your head when someone brushes your hair or whispers to you? The feeling may travel down your arms and your spine, and it likely makes you feel very relaxed. Some call it a “sparkly” feeling, and it might happen when you hear someone crinkle a piece of paper or when someone traces a word on your back.
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".
I can… sort of do this… I can (and I’m borrowing a bit the words of someone above in the comments who’s much better at description than I) send a wave of tingles or energy, I guess, down my spine and my legs a little. It sometimes makes my muscles twitch involuntarily and it feels good… I can’t do it in my head, it starts in my shoulders and sides, I don’t get goosebumps (but then the strongest feeling is in my lower back) and can’t do it in my arms, but it feels like tingles. I haven’t tried seeing if anyone else can feel it (weird that that works… is it like… static electricity or something? Come to think of it, it does feel sort of like electricity…) but I will, though as I can’t spread it to my hands I doubt it will work.
ASMR is usually precipitated by stimuli referred to as 'triggers'. ASMR triggers, which are most commonly auditory and visual, may be encountered through the interpersonal interactions of daily life. Additionally, ASMR is often triggered by exposure to specific audio and video. Such media may be specially made with the specific purpose of triggering ASMR or originally created for other purposes and later discovered to be effective as a trigger of the experience.