You may have heard of videos circulating YouTube with whispering, tapping, and even some lip smacking. They orient around a community who claim that listening to those kinds of sounds can cause a tingling sensation on the scalp or down the spine. Some equate it to the relaxing feeling of getting a haircut or having your hair played with.
Not everyone who listens to the videos experiences the ASMR sensation. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, referring to the tingly feeling that can be caused by different “triggers.”
Triggers can vary for each person and not everyone who listens to ASMR videos do so in attempts to experience the tingling, though listening to a quiet voice or someone whispering is a very common trigger. Sometimes just watching someone doing a simple task and listening to repetitive noises can also elicit the tingling.
Noises like typing, turning book pages, tapping on objects, and crinkling can act as white noise to help someone fall asleep. Some of my personal favorites are tapping and whispering videos. There are more “intense” sound videos that have began to surface with noises that simulate ear cleaning with loud crinkling close to the microphones.
People who despise the sound of people chewing loudly or crunching their food should definitely avoid these triggers. Other people love them. Personally I can’t stand them but some people might hate hearing the tapping noises and whispering videos that I enjoy. Every brain reacts differently.
Though currently there is little research on the concept of ASMR, some scientists have wondered about the causes and possible uses of it. In a New York Times article in 2014, Dr. Carl W. Bazil said that it could act as a helpful way to treat insomnia. “People who have insomnia are in a hyper state of arousal. Behavioral treatments – guided imagery, progressive relaxation, hypnosis and meditation – are meant to try to trick your unconscious into doing what you want it to. A.S.M.R videos seem to be a variation on finding ways to shut your brain down.”
There are some that believe that the tingles that one experiences with ASMR could be linked to the concept of musical frisson. Musical frisson is characterized by the physical response of piloerection (goosebumps). Bryson Lochte is a fellow at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who made the possible connection in his senior thesis at Dartmouth College. He told New York Times, “The whole topic [of ASMR] is still very much unknown.
I would be interested to see what other traits correlate with A.S.M.R. sensitivity, whether it is an inherited attribute and what sort of psychological effects the sensation has on the body.”
I personally cannot account for the possible scientific effects ASMR might have but I do know that it can put me to sleep in minutes. If you’re up late after a night of studying and just can’t seem to turn your brain off, searching YouTube for ASMR might just do the trick.