Thanks again to the Probably Science Podcast, I’ve been turned onto a couple more cool things. The first is ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is another neurological condition in line with Misophonia and Synaesthesia.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial.
One of the hosts on the podcast said he believed he had experienced it, but one of the other hosts was pretty skeptical. I think there are sounds, sights, smells and other things that make us all feel really good in a “love at first sight” kind of way, but the distinction is the pleasurable tingling sensation that accompanies this.
Here’s more from a Time.com article:
People experience ASMR in different ways, which makes describing it especially difficult. For me, whispering, one-on-one attention or someone lightly grazing my hair, neck or back provokes a physical reaction that is almost violent in its quest for pleasure. For others, the feeling is less distinct: some may be simply lulled into a comfortable state of relaxation without experiencing any physical reaction at all.
Hundreds of people create ASMR videos and upload them to YouTube for the purpose of helping people relax. The community, which originated on YouTube with one popular video of a woman whispering, has grown tremendously since its inception in 2009, and now boasts almost 2 million videos. The Reddit forum dedicated to ASMR has over 55,000 subscribers and the Facebook page has almost 11,000 likes. A simple search for “ASMR” on YouTube yields thousands of thumbnails of primarily young, attractive women dragging makeup brushes across their hands or pursing their lips and blowing into the camera.
The acts required to trigger an ASMR are admittedly intimate. The sensation is compared to an orgasm because it can feel similar, just centered at the top of the body instead of the bottom, so you’d be forgiven for confusing ASMRs for something sexual. But perhaps that’s another reason they are so difficult to decipher, especially if you don’t experience them yourself: ASMRs are intimate but not sexual, feel-good but not orgasmic, private but not secret.
“The less intense state that a lot of people get into is sort of a buzzing in the head. It literally feels like their brain is being pushed down, so it’s getting heavy and at the same time buzzing is happening in the back of your head,” said Maria, who runs a popular YouTube account called Gentle Whispering where she posts videos of herself performing a series of ASMR triggers, such as whispering and role playing characters like doctors and teachers meant to guide watchers into the euphoric state of ASMR.
The active community that has formed around the phenomenon largely consists of video creators who themselves experience ASMR and want to help contribute content to the canon to help other people reach the same relaxed state.
Professor Tom Stafford, an expert in psychology and cognitive sciences from the University of Sheffield, was quoted in The Independent, saying:
It might well be a real thing, but it’s inherently difficult to research. The inner experience is the point of a lot of psychological investigation, but when you’ve got something like this that you can’t see or feel, and it doesn’t happen for everyone, it falls into a blind spot. It’s like synaesthesia – for years it was a myth, then in the 1990s people came up with a reliable way of measuring it.
Very interesting, and if they can ever definitively prove that it’s real, I’ll be happy to read about that.