It’s been described as a “brain massage”, and people all over the world watch similar videos – usually someone seeming to give you their undivided attention – to de-stress or drift off to sleep of an evening. Experts explain that it’s about feelings of intimacy and empathy. If you think this sounds like a weird sex thing – no, as it happens, this isn’t a weird sex thing, though the phenomena has been nicknamed a “brain orgasm”. In 2015, a study found that 98 percent of ASMR-loving respondents use the videos to simply relax, while for 70 percent it was stress relief. Only 5 percent said it’s about sexual stimulation (for those people, may we recommend the very whispery ‘Je T’aime Moi Non Plus’ from Jane Birkin and Serge Gainboroug…). There are plenty of songs, too, with evocative sounds – brittle beats, tongue clicks and more – that’ll appeal to those who experience ASMR.
NBC News: "Why some researchers say 'brain tingles' could be the next big trend in relaxation" — "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.
“If you can’t experience it you’re gonna either think it’s weird or you’re gonna think it’s creepy,” Hunnicutt says. Aoki – now playing with her toys in the corner of the room – thinks aloud. “IT’S NOT CREEPY!” she shouts emphatically (although it’s worth noting that with her childish rhotacism, it comes out as “cweepy”). Like many ASMRtists, she notes that these videos help people with insomnia, PTSD and stress. “I mean there’s always some weirdos in the world, but you can’t stop helping others just because there are those people.”
While little scientific research has been conducted into potential neurobiological correlates to the perceptual phenomenon known as 'autonomous sensory meridian response' (ASMR), with a consequent dearth of data with which to either explain or refute its physical nature, there is voluminous anecdotal literature comprising personal commentary and intimate disclosure of subjective experiences distributed across forums, blogs, and YouTube comments by hundreds of thousands of people. Within this literature, in addition to the original consensus that ASMR is euphoric but non-sexual in nature, a further point of continued majority agreement within the community of those who experience it is that they fall into two broad categories of subjects.
I attribute it to my son in spirit being present. It didn’t happen to me until after he died. I can’t control it and comes at random times, I’m not able to pinpoint it. It comes in every quadrant of my head at various times of the day and some day’s only a few times. Lately it’s often and much stronger. I thought perhaps because we are within several weeks of first anniversary of his death.
In addition to the effectiveness of specific auditory stimuli, many subjects report that ASMR is triggered by the receipt of tender personal attention, often comprising combined physical touch and vocal expression, such as when having their hair cut, nails painted, ears cleaned, or back massaged, whilst the service provider speaks quietly to the recipient. Furthermore, many of those who have experienced ASMR during these and other comparable encounters with a service provider report that watching an "ASMRtist" simulate the provision of such personal attention, acting directly to the camera as if the viewer were the recipient of a simulated service, is sufficient to trigger it.