However, the truly novel findings came from a second experiment, when 110 participants viewed ASMR videos while connected to biological feedback machinery. After watching the videos, the heart rates of people with ASMR slowed on average by more than three beats per minute. And their skin conductance levels—a measure of physiological arousal – were significantly increased compared to those in the non-ASMR group.
I never realized this sensation had a name, but have been experiencing it from childhood. While studying about kundalini rising, I read the analogy of the thousand petal lotus blossoming on the crown of the head. I thought, ah, I know what that feels like! Sometimes reading letters from friends triggered it. Getting “picked” during a game of 7 Up triggered it. Having someone do the trick of pulling imaginary string from my palm triggered it.
And just last month, Richard and colleagues published data that shows results of fMRI brain imaging scans for 10 individuals (who all previously reported experiencing ASMR) as they watched an ASMR video and reported feeling the sensation. The parts of the brain active when we’re socially engaged with others, when we feel empathy, and when our brain’s reward centers are on, appeared to be active when people said they experienced ASMR.
The bizarreness of this footage means ASMR isn’t without controversies. In June 2018, the Chinese government banned ASMR videos, branding them “vulgar” and “pornographic”. In August, PayPal began blocking the accounts of ASMRtists who received money to make custom videos (although the company later denied it has a policy against ASMR content). For those who don’t experience ASMR, the videos can seem fetishistic. Beyond the weirdness of whispering and making “mouth sounds” as in Kelly’s honeycomb video, some people nickname ASMR a “brain orgasm”.
Another article, "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state", by Nick Davis and Emma Barratt, lecturer and post-graduate researcher respectively in the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, was published in PeerJ. This article aimed to 'describe the sensations associated with ASMR, explore the ways in which it is typically induced in capable individuals ... to provide further thoughts on where this sensation may fit into current knowledge on atypical perceptual experiences ... and to explore the extent to which engagement with ASMR may ease symptoms of depression and chronic pain' The paper was based on a study of 245 men, 222 women, and 8 individuals of non-binary gender, aged from 18 to 54 years, all of whom had experienced ASMR, and regularly consumed ASMR media, from which the authors concluded and suggested that 'given the reported benefits of ASMR in improving mood and pain symptoms...ASMR warrants further investigation as a potential therapeutic measure similar to that of meditation and mindfulness.'
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.