Autonomous sensory meridian response

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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,[1] with a considerable cult following and strong anecdotal evidence to support the phenomenon but little or no scientific explanation or verified data.[2]

Origins of the term in popular culture[edit]

Online discussion groups such as the Society of Sensationalists formed in 2008 on Yahoo! and The Unnamed Feeling blog created in 2010 by Andrew MacMuiris aimed to provide a community for learning more about the sensation by sharing ideas and personal experiences. Some earlier names for ASMR in these discussion groups included attention induced head orgasm, attention induced euphoria, and attention induced observant euphoria.[2]

In response to these earlier phrases, the term autonomous sensory meridian response was coined by Jenn Allen, who explains that "autonomous" refers to the idiosyncrasy involved with people who experience ASMR, as the response varies from person to person, while "meridian" serves as a euphemism for orgasm.[2] Since the mechanism of ASMR is not thought to be related to sexual orgasm, the term "orgasm" is misleading and not directly used.[2]

Other attempts to describe the sensation refer to it as a "brain massage", "head tingle", "brain tingle", "spine tingle", and "brain orgasm".[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Whispering and role-playing[edit]

A commonly reported stimulus for ASMR is the sound of whispering. As evident on YouTube, a variety of videos and audio recordings involve the creator whispering or communicating with a soft-spoken intonation into a sound recording device and generally a camera.[9][10][11][12]

Many role-playing videos and audio recordings also aim to stimulate ASMR. Examples include descriptive sessions, in a style similar to guided imagery, for experiences such as haircuts, visits to a doctor's office, and ear-cleaning. While these make-believe situations are acted out by the creator, viewers and listeners report an ASMR effect that relieves insomnia,[2] anxiety or panic attacks.[9]

Media coverage[edit]

A conference in the UK (Boring 2012) included ASMR videos on its list of discussion topics. Coverage of this conference, as reported in Slate magazine, mentioned musician and journalist Rhodri Marsden introducing ASMR (alternatively called Auto-Sensory Meridian Response) as a type of nonsexual role-playing video on YouTube.[13][14] Articles in The Huffington Post suggest certain triggers for ASMR.[5][6] The articles mention pleasant tingling or buzzing sensations felt in the head and state that triggers such as the YouTube videos or hearing people whispering can stimulate the sensation. Other triggers may include goal-oriented tasks, soft-speaking, role-playing, and music. ASMR was mentioned in a Kotaku article stating that the phenomenon is similar to binaural beats in that certain sensory triggers, including whispering, stimulate sensations of tingling and euphoria.[15]

A post in the British music magazine New Musical Express made distinctions between ASMR and frisson, noting that although both responses tend to evoke goose bumps in the observer, the emotional and physiological responses are different.[16] Ohio State University School of Music professor David Huron claimed ASMR and cold chill to be different, describing the ASMR effect as "clearly strongly related to the perception of non-threat and altruistic attention", and noting a strong similarity to physical grooming in primates. Nonhuman primates derive significant pleasure from being groomed, and Huron states that they groom each other not to get clean, but to bond.[17]

ASMR has been the topic of various audio and video newscasts.[10][18][19][20] There has also been coverage in traditional and online print publications.[21][22] A live radio broadcast[clarification needed] featured an interview with a man stating that he experiences ASMR and included a discussion of the phenomenon and what triggered it for him.[8] A podcast in The McGill Daily mentions the high prevalence of ASMR videos on YouTube and features different people describing their personal experiences of the feeling.[23] In both media discussions those who experience the phenomenon stated that ASMR is calming or relaxing and is not associated with sexual arousal.

The WBEZ Chicago public radio program This American Life broadcast a story by American novelist Andrea Seigel and her experience with ASMR.[20]

Sacramento news program News10/KXTV reported on the emergence of ASMR videos on the internet for triggering ASMR and helping viewers relax or fall asleep. ASMR video creators, known as ASMR artists, were interviewed and described the ASMR community, ASMR videos and the intended audience for these videos.[24] The fact that ASMR is used for relaxation and not sexual arousal was also addressed.[25] News anchor Cristina Mendonsa reported on the ASMR whisper community by showing samples of ASMR videos and interviews with the video creators as well as the expert opinions from medical professionals.[26] Mendonsa also created an ASMR video by guiding a whispered tour of the News10 studio and newsroom.

American evening news program ABC World News aired a segment on the sleep aid potential of ASMR featuring an interview with video creator Ilse Blansert.[27]

Scientific reactions[edit]

Steven Novella, Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine and active contributor to topics involving scientific skepticism, wrote in his neuroscience blog about the lack of scientific investigation on ASMR, saying that functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation technologies should be used to study the brains of people who experience ASMR in comparison to people who do not experience ASMR. Novella discusses the concept of neurodiversity and mentions how the complexity of the human brain is due to developmental behaviors across the evolutionary time scale. He also suggests the possibility of ASMR being a type of pleasurable seizure or another way to activate the pleasure response.[28]

Dr. Tom Stafford, a lecturer in psychology and cognitive sciences from the University of Sheffield, was quoted in The Independent, saying,[1]

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.

According to neurologist Edward J. O'Connor in the Santa Monica College newspaper The Corsair, an obstacle to accurately researching the ASMR phenomenon is that there may be no single stimulus which triggers ASMR for all individuals.[29]

Sleep specialist Dr. Amer Khan of the Sutter Neuroscience Institute advised that using ASMR videos as a sleep aid may not be the best method for quality sleep and said they may become a habit similar to using a white noise machine or a baby using a pacifier for falling asleep.[26]

Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Yasinski supports the legitimacy of ASMR and claims it is similar to meditation since individuals, through focus and relaxation, may shut down parts of the brain responsible for stress and anxiety.[30]

There is a lack of scientific evidence that ASMR has any general benefits or harms. Any claimed benefits are based on anecdotes (personal accounts of individual perception), not on clinical trials that provide data from which general efficacy and safety can be shown.[9][21][22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marsden, Rhodri (21 July 2012). "'Maria spends 20 minutes folding towels': Why millions are mesmerised by ASMR videos". The Independent. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Cheadle, Harry (31 July 2012). "ASMR, the Good Feeling No One Can Explain". Vice.com. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Simons, Hadlee (16 August 2012). "An orgasm for your head?". iAfrica.com. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Mitchell, Jennifer (4 September 2012). "Latest Social Media Craze: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response". MPBN.net. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Shropshall, Claire (6 September 2012). "Braingasms and Towel Folding: The ASMR Effect". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Tufnell, Nicholas (27 February 2012). "ASMR: Orgasms for Your Brain". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Lively, Daniel (19 April 2012). "That Tingling Feeling: First International ASMR Day". The Corvallis Advocate. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "asmr0921". KCRadioGod.com. 
  9. ^ a b c Hudelson, Joshua (10 December 2012). "Listening to Whisperers: Performance, ASMR Community and Fetish on YouTube". Sound Studies Blog. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "ASMR Videos - Soothing or Creepy?". The Young Turks. YouTube.com. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Carver, Matt Phil (20 March 2013). "Will a whisper make you tingle? Meet the ASMR experts". Gay Star News. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Green-Oliver, Heather (9 April 2013). "I have ASMR, do you? A national day for a tingly feeling? You bet". Northern Life. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Parsons, Chris (21 November 2012). "'Boring 2012' conference becomes complete sell-out". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  14. ^ O'Connell, Mark (27 November 2012). "Surprisingly Interesting". Slate. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  15. ^ Hernandez, Patricia (28 November 2012). "This Drug Is Legal. It's Digital. And It's Supposed To Improve How You Game. I Put It To The Test". Kotaku. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Jones, Lucy (12 September 2012). "Which Moments In Songs Give You Chills?". NME. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  17. ^ Collins, Sean T (10 September 2012). "Why Music Gives You The Chills". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  18. ^ Horning, Rob (5 October 2012). "Radio ASMR". The New Inquiry. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "(Auto Sensory Meridian Response) hit tingles with @autodespair – 8:00pm". ResonanceFM.com. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Seigel, Andrea (29 March 2013). "A Tribe Called Rest". This American Life. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  21. ^ a b O'Connell, Mark (12 February 2013). "The Soft Bulletins". Slate. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Manduley, Aida (February 2013). "Intimate With Strangers". #24MAG 1 (4): 60–61. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Overton, Emma (22 October 2012). "That Funny Feeling". The McGill Daily. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  24. ^ Iqbal, Maneeza (6 May 2013). "Q&A: What are ASMR videos and how do they help people relax". News10.net. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Iqbal, Maneeza (6 May 2013). "ASMR artists: Videos not for sex, but for relaxation". News10.net. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  26. ^ a b Mendonsa, Cristina (6 May 2013). "ASMR: The sound that massages your brain". News10.net. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  27. ^ Sawyer, Diane; Davis, Linsey; Blansert, Ilse; Hansen, Emily (25 February 2014). "The Sleep Whisperer Can Help You Get to Sleep". ABC News (Video). Retrieved 4 April 2014. 
  28. ^ Novella, Steven (12 March 2012). "ASMR". NeuroLogica. New England Skeptical Society. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Arias, Luis (16 April 2013). "A new trend in relaxation". The Corsair. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  30. ^ Hockridge, Stephanie (16 May 2013). "ASMR Whisper Therapy: Does it work? Relaxing, healing with sounds and a whisper". ABC15.com. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 

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