What Is ASMR?
ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a fascinating phenomenon. The science behind ASMR is complicated and hard to grasp. When viewers watch ASMR videos, they experience a kind of pleasure triggered by sounds in the video. The pleasure experienced can be equated to an orgasm.
More specifically, there are certain sound triggers in the ASMR videos that result in an orgasm of the brain and this brings immense pleasure. Maybe this reason explains why ASMR is gaining more and more viewers every day.
However, not everybody experiences ASMR when watching videos that trigger the feeling for other people. Many users say that the sensation usually diminishes after a long time. This is why users strive to understand the science behind ASMR and push for more research on this topic.
It is important to note that ASMR is not sexual in any way. It is described as a tingling sensation which originates behind the head or neck and spreads downwards to the spine and limbs. This sensation ends at the waistline and does not go below.
This is a natural response to some sort of stimulus. This sensation is different and unique to each individual. Its uniqueness to every person is what makes the science behind ASMR difficult to explain. The phenomenon is triggered by a wide range of sounds from whispering to even marbles rolling around in a bottle.
This is not the regular kind of orgasm that occurs in the brain due to peripheral manifestations, it’s triggered by a variety of very odd sensations, which is sometimes difficult to explain.
The term ASMR is a pseudo-scientific term first used in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen. From then on it gained a more formal standing. Previous to that, users who enjoyed these triggers and the feelings that came with it joined sites like the ASMR subreddit.
On youtube alone, there are thousands of subscribers with the ASMR videos having as much as several million views. Most people who experienced those feelings before thought that they were the only ones. It was described as a version of frisson due to lack of evidence, research, and stigmatization.
The internet has played a great role in the creation of the ASMR sensation. Without it, the sensations would have remained a personal matter that an individual experiences when watching something at home. This would have been too embarrassing to discuss. But seeing other people experiencing the same on social platforms encouraged discussions creating solidarity.
The number of users growing on the internet also served a key to recognizing the phenomena and ultimately led to the phenomena getting a name and an internet presence.
ASMR also has other names and similar effects. Similar names include AIHO (orgasm induced by attention) or AIE (attention induced euphoria).some guys have also called this phenomenon braingasm meaning initiated and experienced only in the brain. Although it’s a recent phenomenon it has various roles in the society currently.
Most ASMR video watchers claim that modern virtual girlfriends are a good way to relax. Others also claim it gives an impression that someone cares about you. Other phenomena compared to ASMR but not similar are Misophonia, Synesthesia, and Frisson, although there is a plain and documented distinction between the three.
The Science Behind ASMR
In research done and published by Emma Barratt and Dr. Nick Davis, they said the science behind ASMR is interesting as a psychological factor but also weird. They found out that sensations are quite hard to describe yet it should be easy to explain it scientifically. They experimented if different people’s sensation can be triggered by the same sort of things.
The duo found out that the triggering content was remarkably inconsistent with each participant having different triggers. Most of the people said whispering mostly influenced the trigger. Other contributing factors to the trigger were personal attention, slow movements, and crisp sounds. Only a staggering 5% of participants said that they watch ASMR media content for sexual relaxation, which is hard to believe because most users are male.
Most participants concluded that they watched ASMR videos for the purpose of relaxation. They explained that the videos help them get to sleep or help them cope with stress. This is because the actions performed to make them feel loved, safe and are comforting.
Emma Barrat and Dr. Nick Davis also found out that science behind ASMR is closely related to other two conditions known as flow states and synesthesia. In the flow state, athletes and workers experience heightened focus when doing their tasks.
This is considered a natural connection to ASMR this is because the artists performing roles in videos act in a flow like state. The flow like motions of the actions performed is what triggers ASMR in people witnessing the state.
People with Synesthesia associate one form of sensory input like color to another different sensory input like taste. This is similar to the ASMR experience where users have a multi-sensory experience. The research found that 5.9 percent of participants surveyed had synesthesia symptoms.
The overall significant limit of this research is that it failed to answer the question of why not everybody experiences the ASMR effects. This is probably due to the fact that all the study participants were ASMR enthusiasts. All the triggers of ASMR effects were also not included in the study. ASMR enthusiasts hope that all of these limitations may be addressed in more rigorous studies to come.
Research done by Andersen (2014) shows that ASMR is a plausible theory. This explains why the viewing of the content results in a feeling of intimacy between viewer and performer. This researcher claims that ASMR is purely induced through cognitive associations and the ASMR community should embrace the experience as a no normative sexual public intimacy.
A similar view is also expressed by another researcher by the name Ahuja (2013) who describes this as a diagnostic act and form of therapy unto self. He says that under careful examination by a clinician ASMR has good healing qualities. His explanation was simple and stated that close physical contact through grooming or maternal care could be using the same pathways to act and trigger sights or sounds.
In 2013, a psychiatrist Michael Yasinski reported that the science behind ASMR feeling is considered same as the feeling of focusing and relaxing. He said ASMR helps shuts down sections of the brain that are key areas for stress and anxiety.
Although Michael Yasinski did not go to depths enough to inform the diaspora if an insomnia patient taking medical drugs combined with ASMR sessions or meditation sessions had a chance of full recovery.
Similarly, other professionals like Prof. David Huron from the Department of Music at Ohio State University said that the ASMR effect has a big similarity in the physical grooming of primates who derive pleasure in grooming in an attempt to bond and not to clean.
Since early years, sound has been used diversely. Some ASMR video producers use a binaural recording to create a 3D environment thus experiencing more feelings in close proximity of actor and vocalist. Binaural recording is a technique used for immense and intense effects, in fact, advanced sound headphones are best used for listening to ASMR media contents from online.
Binaural recordings are specifically made for head or earphones rather than loudspeakers. These kinds of videos provide pleasurable sensations and further a calm experience. In binaural recording a set of two separate microphones. In such videos, the sound is captured by binaural recording to capture the best sound quality.
Some of the most common ASMR causing tingles are:
- Whispers (this is most prevalent ASMR trigger on youtube)
- Personal attention
- Page turning
- Hair Play
- Applying Makeup
- Stirring liquids
Some ASMR users claim that the experience is not sexual in any way but some sound triggers prove otherwise. Almost half of ASMR media contents have sounds associated with sex. These sounds include; whispering, mouth sounds, heavy breathing and even the crinkling of snack wrappers.
The triggers may all seem different and unique but they all serve a common purpose. They all seem to touch a common part of the brain creating a similar experience creating a calming experience.
Patients susceptible to insomnia who have been exposed to ASMR content relate to it positively and adversely mention it a tool for relaxation and stress reduction. This is a much-preferred method to treat insomnia as traditional methods do not seem to be as much effective.
Traditionally, people suffering from insomnia were notorious for drug addiction and took other unorthodox measures of treating insomnia. Prof. Carl.W.Bazil advises that getting to watch ASMR videos as a way to treat insomnia might become addictive and so should be avoided. In fact, an elevated mood was description given by most patients after an ASMR session.
More clinical roles of ASMR include treating depression disorders, anxiety, panic attack patients and also paranoid patients. Most of these patients have shown good sleep patterns and improved moods. Some products like practicing yoga and listening to relaxation music have been shown to be similar to the feeling found after a session of ASMR but this has not yet been put in black and white.
The science behind ASMR phenomenon has also been tactfully used in sound production studios of great theater occurrences’. In 2013 an Australian short film was produced using binaural techniques highly appreciated in the ASMR media content.
Modern Orchestra’s also use latest binaural recording and hearing techniques like in ASMR media. These industries have a lot of traffic flow as ASMR users tend to seek relaxation and escape from the stress of modern life associated with sounds from traffic, electronics and construction works.
Commercial roles of ASMR will come along as fast as the phenomenon. With almost half of workplaces in the world being stressful environments, professionals can have pleasant ASMR media content issued through WhatsApp, Facebook, emails, on phones or through the internet to listen during a break session at work.
Video producers and feminine actors will also be on top of their games trying to produce the most sensational moves and sounds.
69% of the respondents on a research about ASMR said that the personal attention given was a trigger for the ASMR feeling. This means that without any personal attention details ASMR media content does not work well or move the respondent a lot. It has also been said by a certain professor from the states that the acronym ASMR could have a more medical term.
Dr. Steven Novella, a professional at Yale medical school suggests that the functional magnetic resonance with imaging (FMRI) and the transcranial magnetic stimulation technology should be utilized to study people experiencing ASMR in comparison to those who do not experience. His advice is that this might help understand the phenomenon of ASMR medically.
Some more skepticism is needed to clear the air about the misconceptions and misunderstanding of ASMR. More has to be done in terms of research in order to deal with the weight of the matter as it should be handled. Critical thinking is now involved.
More than 15 years ago synesthesia was not recognized and was looked upon as weird. With time synesthesia received a wide recognition and basically became accepted. Similarly, acceptance of ASMR by the world will need time and patience.
The acceptance will be much faster if the push for more research on how the science behind ASMR is proven to be beneficial to users. People conducting researches related to ASMR are optimistic as little is known about the phenomena. The openness in the research conducted is a good start and commendable as gives room for corrections to be made.
ASMR may be proven to be a non-medicinal option for coping with anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. This can be saying a lot considering that research has shown that one-third of adults residing in the U.S have insomnia.