Ever hear the sound of a crinkling bag of chips then a relaxing tingle runs down your head? Ever hear someone whisper sensually and get that same euphoric sensation? Some people do and some people don’t but you’re reading this right now to understand what that feeling really is.
And it’s earned a popular name too in recent years – ASMR.
What is ASMR?
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a euphoric and relaxing tingling sensation that radiates in and from the head and neck area that many people experience when triggered by a variety of external stimuli. These goosebump-inducing tingles have been called many things over the years – “brain orgasms”, “brain tingles”, or even just that “weird head feeling”.
The truth is that no one really knows what ASMR is or why some people experience it. The subject is still largely under-researched since interest in ASMR’s effects only became popularly discussed by people and researchers in recent years.
Who knows how long people have been experiencing it? Centuries? Millennia? The feeling might have been a weird sensation that people just never got around to mentioning (not exactly a great conversation starter). All we know is that the term ASMR was coined in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen as a means to properly define and describe the sensation.
However, with the rise of the Internet, everyone has a space to voice their experiences – and ASMR has risen to popularity on social media, Reddit forums and YouTube channels alike. You’d be surprised to know that there are a number of ASMR-focused YouTubers (aptly called ASMRtists) with millions of subscribers.
Even up to this day, there are still no clear scientific benefits of ASMR or how ASMR can possibly cause feelings of relaxation, but they’re still interesting to watch and listen to for a lot of people
How Does ASMR Work?
For ASMRers, the sensation can be caused by a range of common triggers which are typically auditory and visual stimuli. This can be a slow soft whisper, gentle hand movements, the sound of nails tapping on a desk, the crinkling of a plastic bag, the lighting of a match, etc. ASMR can also often be accompanied by roleplay and other creative associations.
While many people have described feeling that tingle starting around the head and the back of the neck, it is also entirely possible for it to pop up in other areas of the body.
While research hasn’t shown us yet how and why exactly some people experience ASMR or even what goes on in the mind and different areas of the brain, the sensation’s effects have been studied to an extent by researchers Giulia Poerio, Emma Blakey, Thomas Hostler, and Teresa Veltri. Their findings indicate that ASMR induces relaxation, with a notable reduction in people’s heart rates and increases in skin conductance.
This feeling can be triggered by a whole variety of everyday factors. In a study conducted by researchers Emma Barratt and Nick Davis from Swansea University in the UK, their research indicated a strong correlation between ASMR and these common stimuli: whispering, personal attention, crisp sounds, and slow movements.
How is ASMR Used?
The Internet has no shortage of content for the ASMR community. Whole channels and Instagram accounts have been dedicated to giving people satisfying tingling feelings through common ASMR triggers.
Take a look at a few popular options for you to check out below:
One of the top ASMR YouTubers is Gentle Whispering ASMR. Her Youtube videos commonly consist of her gently whispering (obviously), talking about the current video, acting out a role, and creating distinct sounds that can trigger ASMR.
Take a look at one of her most popular videos here. It’s a strangely relaxing and almost hypnotic experience that might even calm non-ASMRers.
Have you ever heard of Mukbang? This video craze started in South Korea and grew in popularity all around the world. These videos show hosts interacting with their audiences while eating copious amounts of food.
With ASMR, they’ve taken it one step further. Check out this video by SAS-ASMR and see if this type of stimulus gives you the tingles.
Soap-cutting ASMR videos are favourites for a lot of people. Short but sweet, these videos are extremely satisfying to look at and listen to.
Another popular IG account is @kathyslimes. See if this video of hers triggers a satisfying response.
Looking to relax and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of ASMR? Try out this podcast called ASMR Sleep & Relax Sounds which you can easily find on Spotify.
If you want to listen to a variety of original ASMR content, check out The ASMR Garden where you can check out episodes on stories, affirmations, and even random brushing and tapping.
Does ASMR Work?
In summary, ASMR does work but not for everyone, especially for those with misophonia, which others would consider the exact opposite of liking ASMR.
Plenty of people enjoy ASMR enough to continuously watch and listen to various ASMR videos online, whether that helps in their well-being or not, all we know is that the “tingles” and the brain activity induced by ASMR lead them to enjoy the sensations, and that’s all that is important.
We don’t know just yet how it functions in our bodies or why some of us have evolved to have this response. The experience of ASMR is still a big mystery for the most part, but hopefully more scientific research will be done in the near future so we can better understand exactly what is behind the phenomenon.
While some people never experience the sensation – and you might be one of them – that shouldn’t stop you from checking out some ASMR videos. A lot of them can be just as soothing with or without the added bonus of a weird brain tingle.