Like most people, you probably get little head tingles when you hear certain sounds. Maybe you have gotten tingly while listening to onions being chopped, hearing your car tires crunching on gravel, or even hearing the rasp of your favorite singer on that song you really like. Are all these sounds (and many others) doing something to you on an emotional level? Maybe so, but there is also a solid explanation as to why you feel that head-tingling sensation. It’s called ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response.
In recent times, more and more people have been becoming more conscious about the particular sensation we are talking about. The type that seems to start in your brain and spread across your body after encountering certain sounds. But it is not really a new concept. One of the reasons people have become more aware is because others have related the same feeling in articles and videos that have surfaced online.
In fact, it was one interested internet user by the name Jennifer Allen who realized in 2009 that people were describing the feeling she had been curious about for years. And, after realizing it was more widespread than she thought, she set about digging in to find out more about the phenomenon. It eventually became necessary to put a suitable name to the feeling apart from head or brain-gasms. The name ASMR was born in 2010 and has since led to a burgeoning category on YouTube, rivaling many of the top music videos. But what exactly is ASMR and how does the unique tingling feeling come about?
Despite growing interest on the topic, no one has yet come up with a completely comprehensive understanding of ASMR. Scientific research on the topic have not returned concrete results either. However, there are strong beliefs among people with an interest in ASMR that it’s a natural response in humans. Several facts have been acquired as a result:
Most people can recall obtaining some form of tingling sensation spreading across their body while hearing or indulging in one activity or another at some point in their lives. It could have been while getting a head massage, while being examined in a doctor’s office, or even a simple act of opening a padlock. For many music lovers, that tingling sensation can also occur upon hearing a riveting guitar riff for the first time, hearing a singer hold a note, or maybe how an artist rasps their voice while belting out a tune.
As many folks grow up, and for whatever reason, they may become less aware of the tingles, or the feeling happens in intervals that are fewer and farther apart. That is one reason why it seems that adults tend to have less ASMR tingles than younger folks. This doesn’t mean that adults who can’t remember having them will never experience brain tingles. It’s just that they probably haven’t encountered the right ASMR trigger as yet. Many people commenting under some ASMR videos appear surprised that they were able to experience the warm brain tingles after listening to some outlandish sound such as someone drawing with a pencil or even spraying water from a hose.
As you might have realized by now, people can be triggered by various things, and it does not always have to be a sound. Looking at raindrops splashing against glass, for instance, is one ASMR trigger that people have described online. Some slow, repetitive actions are also pointed out to be ASMR stimuli (although the sounds accompanying these actions are believed to add to their effect.
With that said, the most common ASMR trigger is whispering. The multitude of whisper videos – mainly by women – on YouTube and other websites attest to this. Moreover, whispers are among a few triggers that are said to provide intense tingling reactions in people who are easily affected by such sounds. Other triggers that are said to fall in this category include getting face massages and other body massages with just the fingertips, listening to scratching sounds, various musical sounds, and experiencing all the light touches that come with some forms of personal attention such as haircuts.
Even as research continues, many folks who experience ASMR tingles have cited several benefits, including feeling more relaxed, finding it easier to fall asleep, and having more positive feelings. These benefits are said to occur voluntarily, while looking at ASMR videos, or from their own ASMR-inducing actions. In the case of the late, many adults have confessed to using it on themselves and on their babies to bring about a state of relaxation, induce sleep, and for mood enhancement.
Why it works remains to be found out, but some voices on the topic believe the sensation somehow helps to eliminate tension because the energy spreads downwards. The tingles often begin in the head then quickly makes its way across the shoulders, down the back and limbs, calming some of the muscles it comes in contact with during the process. Still, some give a description that has a more sexual undertone – mentioning that it provides feelings of intense pleasure and relaxation, and even equating the sensation to an orgasm – but in the brain (hence the term brain-gasm).
Some ASMR practitioners have added yet another dimension to the feeling, bringing in the concept of ASMR meditation. This is another growing ASMR segment on YouTube, consisting of numerous videos consisting of meditation sessions. According to some of the creators of these videos, viewers who have fallen out of touch with their spiritual selves can reconnect through ASMR meditation. In addition, some people have gone as far as to say they are able control the tingling sensations and channel the energy into specific parts of their bodies.
If you have ever felt a tingling sensation at the back of your head and washing over your body - probably while listening to some music - you have likely experienced ASMR before. And if you don't think you have, there are tons of videos online just waiting to find your trigger.