The Science of ASMR
BY NAKISA RAZBAN '23
Hey boo! Are you stressed? Already behind on your school work? Then you’ve come to the right place: the wondrous world of ASMR. The term ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) was coined in 2010, although people experienced it long before. Since then, scientists have collected data from people who do experience ASMR to research its possible uses. So, what is ASMR, and how can it be used in the future?
Simply put, ASMR is a tingling feeling from the top of one’s head to the bottom of the spine, leading to a reduced heart rate and calmer headspace. ASMR also makes your skin more electrically conductive. This leads to emotional and psychological arousal, or higher brain activity in the parts dealing with emotions, memory storage and mood regulation. Researchers Nick Davis and Emma Barratt find that ASMR’s relaxing sensations allow for the alleviation of certain depression and chronic pain symptoms. Such findings suggest increased research in this field could make ASMR a prescribable experience for people suffering from various psychological and physical illnesses. But, only a fraction of the population experiences ASMR.
There are multiple theories surrounding why some of us experience ASMR. First, it is possible that brain differences determine the ability to experience it. According to a study by Beverly Fredborg, Stephen Smith, and Jennifer Kornelsen, different neurological pathways allow some to experience ASMR in a similar way to those with synesthesia. When ASMR-experiencing people hear sounds, their brains create a physical sensation associated with that sound. Another theory is that typical ASMR triggers like tapping and gentle talking mimic the womb. These sounds may bring people back to a time of stillness. Lastly, great apes experience ASMR when they pick ticks off of each other’s backs, so we may have inherited this sensation from our common ancestors.
ASMR has opened the door to a new method of helping people. If you’ve never watched an ASMR video, give it a shot! Who knows, you might unlock your new de-stressing strategy. Some of my favorites are TingTing ASMR for some relaxing shampoo treatments, Morpheus ASMR for wholesome-grandpa-trying-to-stay-up-to-date-with-the-kids vibes, and Cooking Tree for kitchen ASMR. I love ASMR, and I hope you too can see—or feel—how magical it is!