What is ASMR?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a phenomenon in which people respond to various triggers such as soft speaking voices, tapping, scratching and eating sounds, etc. ASMR has been around since the 70s, and it first got documented on the internet in 2007. Since then, it has experienced immense popularity growth. In fact, more than 12 million ASMR videos are available on YouTube alone. In this post, we will explore why some people experience ASMR, the scientific explanation behind this phenomenon, and why people love it.
There are literally thousands of things that are used to generate that ASMR effect. Some ASMR triggers include:
- soft speaking voices, most commonly female and usually whisper or talk quietly
- gentle sound effects such as tapping or scratching, like someone gently drawing their fingernails across a surface or playing with an object on video
- eating sounds that sound like slurping, cracking, crunching, etc. This one is quite popular in mukbangs.
The general consensus is that ASMR can cause a pleasurable tingling sensation that begins at the scalp and travels down the neck and spine. It can be soothing and calming, but it’s not clear why some people endure this response while others do not. However, there are a few scientific theories of how ASMR works and why those who experience it love it. Many of the possible principles are focused on the release of chemicals in the brain.
These chemicals are called endorphins and include dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These are all referred to as feel-good hormones. Consequently, engaging in any activity that triggers these chemicals would understandably be a pleasant experience.
- Serotonin: mood stabilizer, happiness trigger
- Oxytocin: stimulates bonding, love, trust
- Dopamine: induces pleasure
ASMR might also work by temporarily changing the activity in a part of an individual’s brain. In 2020, a study indicated that people with ASMR may experience what scientists refer to as altered connectivity patterns. During the investigation, these participants were observed to experience changes in their brain’s communication networks while in a dormant state. It then means a set of additional structures becomes activated when the brain is resting.
According to a 2018 research, some volunteers experienced reduced heart rates and increased sweating while watching ASMR videos. As such, researchers concluded that ASMR has the capability of being calming and exciting. ASMR videos are typically watched by people who experience ASMR, as well as those who don’t but enjoy the sensation or find ASMR relaxing or soothing.
There is so much happening across the globe and the internet in the ASMR space. This bit of information covers only the basics, so we invite you to take this ASMR education journey with us, as we hope to explore more with you.
Mayer, M. (2021). Testing the Tingles: The Science Behind ASMR. Brainfacts.org. https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/emotions-stress-and-anxiety/2021/testing-the-tingles-the-science-behind-asmr-020221
Sackett, D. (2017, October 25). Why Is My Brain Tingling? Scientific American Blog Network. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/why-is-my-brain-tingling/
Smith, S. D., Fredborg, B. K., & Kornelsen, J. (2019). Atypical Functional Connectivity Associated with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: An Examination of Five Resting-State Networks. Brain Connectivity, 9(6), 508–518. https://doi.org/10.1089/brain.2018.0618
Wu, J. (2019, December 4). Is ASMR Real or Just a Pseudoscience? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-asmr-real-or-just-a-pseudoscience/