Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, more commonly known as ASMR, refers to the sensations felt in response to auditory stimuli, which can range from whispering to ambient noises such as tapping. The sensations caused by ASMR often resemble calming tingles along the scalp and spine that radiate throughout the entire body. If you’ve ever experienced shivers along your spine while listening to music or observing an aesthetic scene, you have likely experienced a similar feeling to ASMR.
Though the name may sound scientific, ASMR is not by nature a scientific concept, owing its origins to people’s personal experiences . Does that mean ASMR is just a placebo? A study published in PLOS One disagrees, asserting that ASMR is a reliable and psychologically sound phenomenon that may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health . The first experiment conducted by these scientists demonstrated that ASMR videos increased the “pleasant-effect” for people who experience ASMR and the second concluded that ASMR is associated with high skin conductance and a reduced heart rate. The effects discovered by this study are consistent with people’s self-reported experiences with ASMR, which include tingling sensations (skin conductance) and a calming feeling (reduced heart rate). Furthermore, this calming feeling explains why one of the most common uses of ASMR is by people having trouble falling asleep, as majority of online searches for ASMR occur after 10 pm . One of my own friends often has trouble falling asleep and listens to ASMR almost every night to help him relax before bed. While this study does explore some of the feelings associated with ASMR, it still leaves a question unexplored: it is possible for everyone to experience ASMR?
If you’re like me and have not personally experienced ASMR, you might justifiably be skeptical of this phenomenon. However, there is still no complete answer to the previous question about ASMR being universal, with not enough data to support either side of the argument. Two aspects of ASMR however are important to consider—triggers and sensitivity. Just like how our tastes in music vary widely, ASMR triggers are not universal, with different people experiencing ASMR through differing means. Furthermore, people tend to have a varying sensitivity towards these triggers, ranging from a fleeting pleasant sensation to an intense stimulating experience. It is difficult to make a conclusive judgement on the legitimacy of ASMR due to these inconsistencies in ASMR’s impact on people.
In conclusion, ASMR, while still being somewhat ambiguous, has exploded in popularity recently across social media platforms such as YouTube. Whether or not you think ASMR is real, millions of people around the world do, and it is in our best interests to further study this sensation to potentially learn more about its beneficial uses. If you have never tried ASMR, I would encourage you to give it a shot and see if you too can experience this mysterious feeling.
“ASMR Science - Is There Any Science behind ASMR?” The ASMR Lab, www.asmrlab.com/asmr-science/.
Barratt EL, Davis NJ. (2015) Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ 3:e851 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.851
University of Sheffield. "Brain tingles: First study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 June 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180621101334.htm>.
Poerio GL, Blakey E, Hostler TJ, Veltri T (2018) More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLOS ONE 13(6): e0196645. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196645