The explanation behind this physiological reaction lies in the brain. "It's likely that the tingling is due to specific neurochemicals (like oxytocin and endorphins) being released during ASMR—and these neurochemicals are also inducing the deep feeling of relaxation," says Craig Richard, PhD, an ASMR researcher, professor at Shenandoah University in Virginia, and author of Brain Tingles. In a 2018 study published by Richard and his colleagues, they found that ASMR activated similar regions of the brain as those activated during affiliate behaviors, which includes interpersonal bonding (such as parent-infant bonding) along with grooming and care-giving behaviors that involve positive personal attention. These behaviors share similar triggers with ASMR, such as gentle touch, soft voices, focused attention, and a bond of trust.
The ASMR Research & Support organization—which is trying to kick-start scientific research on the phenomenon—puts sensation seekers into two categories: Type A is relaxed by their own thoughts, like meditation. The more common Type B relies on something external to stimulate their euphoria, like listening to a pen scratch paper or a whispering voice (the latter is so common that ASMR is sometimes called whisper therapy).
If you want to find out more about ASMR Videos or how to find them check out the ASMR Videos page. Often the most successful ASMR videos will include a variety of triggers, and sometimes that combination can produce much more of an effect than the isolated triggers themselves, for some good examples of this check out our round-up of cranial nerve exam videos.
While many colloquial and formal terms used and proposed between 2007 and 2010 included reference to orgasm, there was during that time a significant majority objection to its use among those active in online discussions, many of whom have continued to persist in differentiating the euphoric and relaxing nature of ASMR from sexual arousal. However, by 2015, a division had occurred within the ASMR community over the subject of sexual arousal, with some creating videos categorized as ASMRotica (ASMR erotica), which are deliberately designed to be sexually stimulating.