ASMR | Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

You may have seen videos on the internet where people whisper and tap on things or crinkle things. These strange delicate noises can cause some people to get “brain tingles”. This tingling sensation can start across the skull and down to the spine and it’s usually paired with an intense feeling of relaxation. It’s been called “brain tingles” or “brain orgasms” but, as of now, it goes by ASMR which stand for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

Awareness of ASMR has been growing since early 2010. Its reputation has piqued the interest of science researchers who want know what’s going on behind this phenomenon. To be honest, we don’t know a lot. The term, ASMR is not even defined in the scientific literature. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response sounds like a scientific term, but it was coined on an online forum, not by the scientist. ASMR could be linked to Synesthesia, which is the ability to hear colour or taste words.

What tingle heads are trying to describe is the body’s involuntary response based on what it is seeing and hearing. A 2015 study took the responses of 475 participants who experience ASMR and found consistent visual and auditory stimuli across the board. Participants experienced tingles to slow movement, soft whispering or crisp sounds like tapping. Of course, different people react differently to the tingles for some it is a stress reliever and for other, it makes them so relaxed that it helps them sleep.

The thing is this is all self-reported by ASMR enthusiasts. So another study tried to get some concrete evidence right at the source. Researchers used fMRI scans to study brains of a small group of people half of whom had ASMR. They focused on the resting state network or Default Mode Network (DMN). The Default Mode Network (DMN) is a system of interacting regions of the brain that light up when the individual is not focused on external factors like when you are daydreaming. All they looked for was a difference in brain structures not what the tingles did to the brain Though it was not a large sample size what they found was interesting.

Normally, certain regions of the brain fire up together or talk to one another this is called be functionally connected. But in people who experience ASMR researchers noted some of these regions were talking LESS to one another and some regions were talking more. So, we still don’t have concrete answers yet, but these fMRIs are showing that these tingle heads have definitely something going on. But so far, that’s about all we could find in the hard science literature on ASMR.

We can’t talk ASMR without mentioning Dr Craig Richard, a professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and ASMR experiencer, who created a whole platform to interview other ASMR scientists and keep it in the news He has a hypothesis that this brain tingles creating sounds or videos have one thing in common that is their ability to elicit intimacy through the idea of sensory function. Things are being touched, voices are soothing and comforting, He believes all of these factors trigger a similar response to the experience of being loved. But we have no scientific evidence to back this up with ASMR.

It might seem like silly internet thing knowing more about this could help us treat serious conditions like insomnia, anxiety and chronic pain. More research is definitely needed, but it is a good reminder that even when you feel alone, you can always count on the people of the internet to have your back and also your tingly head.

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