ASMR: What’s It All About?

Do you enjoy the sound of rain tapping against a window or find the repetitive motion of a ceiling fan spinning to be relaxing? If so you may be experiencing ASMR.

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is most commonly described as a pleasant, static-like feeling in the back of a person’s head, similar to that goosebump-inducing feeling you can get when someone massages or scratches your scalp and the back of your neck.

People who make ASMR content, often called ASMRtists, attempt to evoke this response through a series of visual and auditory triggers, such as whispering, tapping, hand movements and painting. These triggers are typically done with items and gestures that are quiet and repetitive in nature.

The majority of YouTube channels that create ASMR content began popping up around 2014, and in the five years since then, ASMR has become one of the most popular video genres on the YouTube.

One of the earliest examples of mainstream ASMR is the PBS television program The Joy of Painting, hosted by Bob Ross. The show had the relaxing visual triggers of Bob Ross painting and auditory triggers of the brush against the canvas, as well as a host with a soothing voice.

Why do people enjoy ASMR? One theory suggests the triggers that stimulate the tingling feeling of ASMR could be activating the biological pathways of interpersonal bonding, which in turn creates feelings of comfort and security in an individual. With these feelings comes with a release of endorphins, which brings about the feelings of pleasure, relaxation and desire.

The human brain is programed to take these signals and perceive them as the body being in a safe and trustworthy environment.

As of now, the study of ASMR is still in its infancy. What we do know is that not everyone experiences ASMR the same way. Some researchers have speculated that ASMR might be related to the neurological condition synesthesia, a condition that causes the brain to process data and stimuli and connect it to more than one sense at once.  An example of this is Grapheme-Color Synesthesia. A person with this type of synesthesia perceives letters and numbers as colors.

As of now, the study of ASMR is still in its infancy. Most studies are just trying to see what is happening biologically in response to these stimuli with very few legitimate scientific studies having been done on the phenomenon, but more are underway. Soon we will know if these sensations are part of something that we are already aware of, like auditory-tactile synesthesia, or if they are something entirely new.

Story By: Carlee Blumenthal

Photo Courtesy of Isabel Imagination ASMR