ASMR: Is This a Brain Massage or Rubbish?

Published June 1st, 2021 - 07:29 GMT
Woman hands with crumpled paper
Woman hands with crumpled paper (Shutterstock)
It feels as if somebody is gently tracing a finger down your spine.

By Ewelina Lepionko

There's a corner in the internet world where people post videos of themselves whispering breathlessly into microphones, rubbing their fingernails on sequins, and eating food very, very slowly.

Have you ever wondered what the fuss is about?


The answer is a four-letter abbreviation: ASMR. This is an attempt to trick our brain. It comes from the English name of the autonomous sensory meridian response. It is a response from the human body that consists of a pleasant, tingling feeling combined with relaxation. 

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), sometimes auto sensory meridian response, is a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. A pleasant form of paresthesia, it has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia and may overlap with frisson.  ASMR signifies the subjective experience of "low-grade euphoria" characterized by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin".

While YouTube seems to be flooded with ASMR videos today, there are a lot of ASMR triggers you will find yourself surrounded by on daily basis. Some of them are personal attention, tapping and crunching sounds, and even slow movements.

The term is believed to have been coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, who started a Facebook group dedicated to finding out more about it.

The term quickly caught on, as people finally had a way to reference the pleasurable feeling they had been experiencing.

However, we can talk about the phenomenon of popularity now. Movies about ASMR have multi-million viewers. It is important to combine pleasant auditory and visual stimuli. There is also an even more erotic version: Channels where we listen to kissing, smooching and other "intimate" sounds made as close to the microphone as possible for the highest sensitivity. 

Why it feels so good?

It is a rather pleasurable tingling sensation that starts all the way from your scalp, creeps down your neck and then to the rest of your spine, and at times—even spreads out to your hands and feet. It feels as if somebody is gently tracing a finger down your spine. It is believed that people who watch ASMR videos show physiological responses like a decreased heart rate, which explains the intense feeling of relaxation.


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For lonely people, it can give the illusion of being close to another person. Some creators try to imitate pets. Some media took advantage of the popularity of the whispering fashion to record interviews with celebrities using this method. 

ASMR is a massive and growing trend

ASMR videos can range in length, from 15 minutes to nearly three hours. They’re designed to be long enough to allow the viewer to relax and even fall asleep while watching them.

A quick search of ASMR on YouTube yields more than 10 million results. The phenomenon has been referenced in TV shows including HBO's hit series, "High Maintenance," and it's been featured in prominent advertising campaigns worldwide.

Since not everyone experiences ASMR, it will likely remain a niche for a subset of people on the internet.

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