Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance. As soon as she started talking, it felt like my brain would start tingling. Her measured cadence and accent felt almost like some sort of mind massage. It was incredibly relaxing – and felt amazing, almost like an audio version of one of these:
If you’re not one of Payton’s 443,000 subscribers, then you’re probably currently asking yourself something along the lines of, “Why the heck do people want to watch someone eat a pickle?” The answer, quite simply, is ASMR: or autonomous sensory meridian response. This term is used to describe the sensation, normally a tingling, that people get in response to an auditory or visual cue (like someone eating a pickle). It’s been described as a type of auditory-tactile synesthesia, and it can be triggered by everything from whispering to the crinkling of wrapping paper. The term was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, the founder of the first Facebook group for people who experience the phenomenon, and it has been referred to as ASMR ever since.
Addressing the issue here of the wire scalp thingy… yeah that one’s right smack in the center of Sensual. Nothing sexual about it, though – for me – nothing particularly Spiritual either. I’ve only ever seen them sold as “Scalp Tinglers”, and didn’t find it very special. I much prefer my Denman scalp massagers. THOSE trigger intense ASMR’s for me. My whole body from crown to toes feels like it’s melting in joy when I scrub my head with two of those things, one in each hand. WOW.
Austrian writer Clemens J. Setz suggests that a passage from the novel Mrs. Dalloway authored by Virginia Woolf and published in 1925, describes something distinctly comparable. In the passage from Mrs. Dalloway cited by Setz, a nursemaid speaks to the man who is her patient 'deeply, softly, like a mellow organ, but with a roughness in her voice like a grasshopper's, which rasped his spine deliciously and sent running up into his brain waves of sound'.
In the first peer-reviewed article on ASMR, published in Perspectives in Biology in summer 2013, Nitin Ahuja, who was at the time of publication a medical resident at the University of Virginia, invited conjecture on whether the receipt of simulated medical attention might have some tangible therapeutic value for the recipient, comparing the purported positive outcome of clinical role play ASMR videos with the themes of the novel Love in the Ruins by author and physician Walker Percy, published in 1971.