This hour originally aired Feb. 13, 2019.
With Meghna Chakrabarti
Lip smacking, turning pages and scratching — they're all part of a phenomenon called ASMR. We look at why millions are captivated by these "brain tingles."
Craig Richard, professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University. Founder of ASMR University and coordinator of the ASMR Research Project. Author of "Brain Tingles: The Secret to Triggering Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response for Improved Sleep, Stress Relief, and Head-To-Toe Euphoria."
Give It A Try For Yourself: Do You Experience ASMR?
From The Reading List
New York Times: "A.S.M.R. Videos Give People the Tingles (No, Not That Way)" — "It tingles. It feels good. And it has nothing to do with sex.
"(Unless you want it to.)
"By now, you may have heard of the phenomenon of A.S.M.R., the soothing, static-like sensation that some people feel in response to certain triggers. These “brain tingles” are often said to pulsate on the scalp or back, putting people into a state of calm and pleasure so deep that it is often described as a 'brain orgasm.'
"You may have even experienced the feeling yourself by accident, while getting a haircut or watching old videos of the PBS star Bob Ross paint.
"But whether or not you have any idea what we’re talking about, trust us when we say that these private sensations have turned into a public sensation.
"The abbreviation stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, a name that was coined in 2010, as videos intended to stimulate the response started to take off."
Smithsonian: "How Researchers Are Beginning to Gently Probe the Science Behind ASMR" — "The burgeoning Internet phenomenon was so new, it didn’t even have a name. It was so strange and hard to describe that many people felt creepy trying. It resided at the outer edge of respectability: a growing collection of YouTube videos featuring people doing quiet, methodical activities like whispering, turning magazine pages and tapping their fingers. Some viewers reported that these videos could elicit the most pleasurable sensations: a tingling feeling at the scalp and spine, coupled with euphoria and an almost trance-like relaxation.
"Seven years later, ASMR is having a pop culture moment—even if many of those who use it don’t know what the acronym stands for. The phenomenon’s most popular practitioners have more than half a million subscribers, and the doyenne of ASMRrtists, Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR, has been so successful that she’s been able to quit her job to role-play soothing cosmetologists, librarians and flight attendants full-time. But what is ASMR? What function does it serve, who is drawn to it, and why? Or, as researcher Craig Richard puts it: 'Why are millions of people watching someone fold a napkin?'
"As ASMR has started to come to mainstream attention, researchers have finally begun trying to answer that question. Neuroscientists are now experimenting with fMRIs and electroencephalography to see if the brains of 'tingleheads,' as they are called, are any different than those who don’t tremble at the sight of napkin-folding. They’ve also surveyed tens of thousands of people who say they experience the phenomenon. So far there are intriguing—if limited—findings suggesting that ASMR may relieve some people’s symptoms of stress and insomnia, and that the brains of those who experience it may be organized a little differently."
NBC News: "Why some researchers say 'brain tingles' could be the next big trend in relaxation" — "Have you ever felt a static-like or tingling sensation on the top of your head when someone brushes your hair or whispers to you? The feeling may travel down your arms and your spine, and it likely makes you feel very relaxed. Some call it a 'sparkly' feeling, and it might happen when you hear someone crinkle a piece of paper or when someone traces a word on your back.
"The phenomenon is one that has captured the attention of psychologists and other researchers over the past decade or so. They’ve termed it 'autonomous sensory meridian response' (or 'ASMR'), though some also refer to it as a 'brain orgasm.'
"'For me, my brain goes delightfully fuzzy. I’m so relaxed that I want to put my head down wherever I’m at,' says Craig Richard, PhD, professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, and author of a new book about ASMR, 'Brain Tingles.'
"Researchers started paying attention to ASMR, Richard explains, in large part because of the boom of online videos of ASMR triggers — and the claims of those who watched them."
Aceel Kibbi and Allison Pohle produced this hour for broadcast.
This program aired on July 3, 2019.