Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) : Brain Tingles

September 9, 2022

By now you probably know that we are absolutely obsessed with sound and are on a journey to explore every single topic do with it. So, if you’re anything like us, stay tuned!

This week we’ve immersed ourselves in ASMR, also known as brain tingles – the unique internet sensation that has taken the world by storm in the last couple of years.

What is autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)?

Autonomous sensory meridian response, or else known as ASMR is a relaxing feeling that many describe as a pleasant tingling or ‘brain orgasm’. It is similar to the feeling of goosebumps when you listen to your favorite song or when you feel the wind gently blowing on your neck and is often triggered by sound.

"The term ASMR was made up to make it sound more scientific, because people were calling it stuff like ‘brain orgasms." - Dr Giulia Poerio

Scientifically explained, ASMR is a perceptual condition where particular audio-visual stimuli can trigger intense and pleasurable tingling sensations in the head and neck regions, which may spread to the rest of the body.

We’re sure you know what we’re talking about, and we bet you’ll agree it’s a pretty great sensation. But did you know that recently it’s become an internet craze? That’s right, there are all sorts of videos popping up on YouTube designed to stimulate this response, from sounds of people whispering to eating, tapping their nails, and even more niche options.

If the phrase ‘mind orgasm’ hasn’t made you want to at least give it a try, we don’t know what will!

Related article: Hearing the world in colour: sound-to-colour synesthesia

What triggers ASMR?

There are mainly 4 types of triggers that can induce ASMR

Sound: whispering, tapping, or scratching
Visual: mild swishing movements, eg: paint being mixed in a bucket
Eating: watching or listening to people eat or chew
Touch: someone drawing or scratching on your skin
a man enjoying brain tingles when his barber massages his head

What are the benefits of listening to ASMR?

Research in 2018 revealed that listening to ASMR can slow heart rate. Another study in 2018 showed that listening to ASMR can help you: Relax and unwind, Sleep better, Feel comforting and cared, Reduce anxiety and pain, Improve mental wellbeing

However, it’s worth noting that ASMR is a very personal experience and as such will have different benefits for different people. Also, ASMR does not work for everyone.

Related article: Does anyone actually enjoy going to noisy places?

Different types of ASMR

There are so many types of ASMR but we’d never be able to list them all. And of course, what works for one person won’t work for everyone!

Here are a few common types.

  • Listening to a softly spoken or whispering voice.
  • Listening to quiet, repetitive sounds results from someone engaging in a mundane task such as turning the pages of a book.
  • Watching somebody attentively execute a mundane task such as preparing food.
  • Loudly chewing, crunching, slurping, or biting foods, drinks, or gum.
  • Listening to tapping typically nails onto surfaces such as plastic, wood, metal, etc.
  • Hand movements, especially onto one’s face.
  • Listening to certain types of music.
  • Listening to a person blow or exhale into a microphone.


But why do some people enjoy brain tingles so much?

Nick Davis, a researcher of ASMR, claims that it has both physiological and psychological responses. Watching ASMR videos may activate your brain in a similar way as being with someone you care about while they play with your hair in a gentle way.

It’s likely that the brain chemical, Oxycontin, is strongly involved in ASMR because it’s known to cause relaxation during bonding and grooming behaviors. Basically, you associate people eating certain foods or brushing hair with some sort of psychological state of comfort and calmness. As for physiological response – your heart rate slows and your skin electrical response changes. Pretty cool, right?!

Interestingly, not everyone enjoys this unique experience. Research conducted by a few ASMR scientists said that 43% of people watching the videos experience unpleasant or annoying feelings of misophonia, a disorder in which certain sounds cause emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as irritating and very unpleasant.

Related article: Why Do Some Sounds Feel So Good?

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