What does ASMR mean?
Dictionary.com defines it as Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) [ey-es-em-ahr] which is a calming, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation. This tingle is said to originate in a person’s head and spread to the spine (and sometimes the limbs) in response to stimulation. The stimuli that trigger ASMRvary from person to person. Some of the most common ones include whispers, white noise, lip smacking, having a person’s complete attention (as in having one’s hair cut by a hairdresser), as well as brushing, chewing, tapping, scratching, whispering, and crinkling.
Google ASMR and you will see it’s literally everywhere! It’s been covered by the Today Show, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Mashable, Glamour Magazine, and countless other publications and websites. People are literally obsessed with it…but why?
Sure, it’s a fetish/niche, but it’s also a wellness trend that is needed in the chaotic world we live in.
ASMR aka Brain Tingles & Braingasms Have a Huge Buzz
Everyone is talking about it. It’s slightly bizarre to some but others are jumping on this wellness trend bandwagon that could very well rival mindfulness. Instagram has over 4.9 million videos tagged with ASMR and more than 13 million ASMR videos can be found on YouTube. Even rapper Cardi B has mentioned it in some of her recent high profile interviews—the soothing sounds and gentle whispers help her unwind and fall asleep.
What Is It…Exactly?
ASMR (aka Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a feeling that some people experience as the result of certain sights and sounds and it could be anything from whispering to folding towels to brushing hair. It makes the skin tingle from the crown of the head and works its way down your spine, which leads to increased feelings of calm and relaxation. People are losing their minds for ASMR videos to help them fall asleep, reduce stress, and has mood boosting qualities. Plus, it has psychological benefits of relaxation techniques like mindfulness.
Is It Effective? Life is more stressful by the day and sleep can easily elude us. ASMR can help you get a better night’s sleep. But, you can also use it during the day—take a break and listen to sounds or watch videos to help you de-stress during waking hours.
ASMR & The Whisper Fetish
Imagine listening to a woman’s voice and getting turned on without her taking off her clothes. It gives you a sort of euphoric, almost orgasmic, sensation with more than just your brain tingling. If you do some digging (and you won’t have to dig deep), you can find people willing to share this fetish with you. Clips4Sale has tons of clips to choose from in this genre. Just close your eyes and let yourself escape into the voice you hear. Or watch a woman doing ASMR…the camera never strays past her shoulders and she’s whispering into microphone and brushing the hair away from her face with her perfectly manicured hands. Yes, it’s that simple. It may be a turn-on you’ve never even contemplated, but it’s out there and getting more popular as a fetish, as well as a wellness trend.
The Science Behind How to Have a ‘Brain Orgasm’
Julie Beck from TheAtlantic.com wrote an article exploring ASMR, here is an excerpt from the article with regard to the science behind the phenomenon.
“Attention-Induced Euphoria,” though ASMR is the term that has caught on. According to Google, the term first showed up in 2011, increased in search popularity in 2012, and really took off this year.This is just nomenclature, not science. There is currently no published research on ASMR, though that may change soon.
At Dartmouth College, Bryson Lochte did an fMRI study on ASMR, which started as his senior honors thesis. “Even though I’ve never experienced ASMR, I had a gut feeling that [these videos] were doing something unique in the brain,” Lochte says. “I became more fascinated by ASMR when I started visiting the forums where posters were reporting euphoric effects, and even therapeutic effects for symptoms of insomnia and anxiety.” He posted earlier this year on the ASMR subreddit, calling for volunteers, and completed the study in May. First, he looked at how ASMR videos affected “normal people”—18 Dartmouth undergrads. “In the second study we selected only people we knew could reliably experience and report ASMR,” he says. “For this we used 10 subjects, most of whom were people from the subreddit who could commute to Hanover, New Hampshire. In this second study we asked the participants to bring in videos that they knew would trigger their ASMR. They then watched the videos in an MRI, while indicating periods of ASMR with a button press.”
Lochte is currently seeking publication, and says he can’t discuss his results until the study is published in a journal. In 2012, Steven Novella, a neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine wrote a blog post about ASMR, asking “the most basic question—is it real? In this case I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is… It’s similar to migraine headaches—we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.” He goes on to speculate as to what ASMR could be—possibly small seizures, or “just a way of activating the pleasure response.”
Scientists have studied a different type of tingle—the chills that go up and down your spine, often caused by listening to music. Though both sensations can be triggered by sound, the ASMR subreddit is quick to point out that ASMR is “NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH MUSIC BASED TINGLES/SHIVERS. Those are called frisson and can be discussed in /r/frisson.”
David Huron, a professor at Ohio State University, has studied music-induced frisson and offered me some “informal impressions” on ASMR after watching a few videos.
“Physiological arousal (heart rate, respiration, etc.) increases under a number of circumstances,” he wrote in an email. “One of these is proximity. We are highly sensitive to close stimuli. When someone whispers in your ear, that will certainly quicken your heart rate and grab your attention.”
Even so, “frankly, calling it ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’ sounds like a bunch of pseudo-science to me,” he says.
The breathiness of Maria’s voice may also have something to do with her popularity (she has more than 43 million YouTube views and makes a small amount of income from her videos). “To the auditory system, breathiness is a proximity cue, so high breathiness is heard as symptomatic of intimacy,” Huron says.
There is something about the closeness of a sound. Several people have told me that the videos work better if you watch them with headphones on. And many ASMRtists, including Maria, use 3D, or binaural, microphones, which create a stereo recording that makes the listener feel like they’re in the same room as the speaker.“I definitely think it has something to do with proximity,” Maria says. “When you watch ASMR videos, you’re completely vulnerable, the viewer is. It’s almost uncomfortable for you to be that close to another person, but if you feel how much they care about you at that moment, it just puts you in that state of euphoria.”Maria says some of her fans use the videos to feel like they have company—“engineers, or architects, or people that work on the computer all the time and are lonely.””I imagine that the effect may be especially profound for people who otherwise experience little intimacy in their lives,” Huron says.This weird sort of intimacy is part of the appeal—for many people, after all, it is close, personal attention that triggers the tingles, and the videos simulate that as best they can through the mediator of the Internet.
Understandably, considering the whispering, and the intimacy, and the term “brain orgasms,” ASMR can seem at first blush like a fetish of some kind. The ASMR subreddit clarifies: “This is sometimes referred to as head orgasms, but this is about as sexual as saying eating chocolate is orgasmic (in that it’s not sexual).” And while they may exist, none of the many videos I’ve watched in the course of reporting this article have had any sexual content.
Even so, because she’s a woman who puts her face on the Internet, Maria does get some unsavory comments sometimes. But she also gets thankful, heartfelt messages from people who’ve found some comfort in her videos. She told me she keeps a folder called “Gratitude” on her computer filled with these messages, that she reads before she makes her videos.
So maybe ASMR is a little weird, and maybe it is a little lonely—people tend to seem both embarrassed and excited to talk about it—but this random physical sensation has provided a keystone for an online community earnestly dedicated to relaxing and feeling good.
“Human communication has been increased to the point that people who have what they think are unique personal experiences can find each other, eventually bringing the phenomenon to general awareness, giving it a name and an Internet footprint,” Novella writes.
“It’s a weird thing to be involved with,” Lee says, “because you don’t want to go shouting around to your friends and co-workers that you have ‘brain orgasms,’ but when you find out that others share your enthusiasm for it, it’s a really cool thing to connect over.”
To read the full article: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/how-to-have-a-brain-orgasm/282356/