Mar 12 2012

ASMR

You can find almost anything on YouTube. I can imagine a future historian analyzing the millions of videos from a certain period of time, using it as a window into our contemporary society. I further imagine some videos would be quite mysterious, however. For example, why is there a video of a person whispering Genesis in Latin? Another video is a static picture of a wrapped present with the sound of someone wrapping presents (several people apparently loved this). There is also video of is a real people getting eye exams. This seems ordinary enough – but there is a strange connection between the eye exam videos and the previous two.

The phenomenon is called autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). I have been reading about this for a short time, it seems to be a growing subculture on the internet and is just peaking through to mainstream awareness.

By the way – this is perhaps another phenomenon worth pointing out, the internet allowing for previously personal and hidden experiences to come to general awareness. Human communication has been increased to the point that people who have what they think are unique personal experiences can find each other, eventually bringing the phenomenon to general awareness, giving it a name and an internet footprint. Of course, such phenomena are not always real – sometimes a real pattern emerges from the internet, sometimes illusory or misidentified patterns, the cultural equivalent of pareidolia.

But I have left you waiting long enough – what is ASMR? It is described as a pleasurable and calming tingling sensation in the back of the head. It is often called a brain orgasm, or braingasm (which I think is a bit misleading, since the regular kind of orgasm occurs in the brain with some peripheral manifestations). This experience can be triggered by a variety of odd sensations. The ASMR Research and Support website (you knew that had to exist) gives a list:

- Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns
- Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures
- Experiencing a high empathetic or sympathetic reaction to an event
- Enjoying a piece of art or music
- Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner – examples would be filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.
- Close, personal attention from another person
- Haircuts, or other touch from another on head or back

This is a diverse list of triggers, but I can see what they all have in common. They all seem to engage the same networks of the brain – that part of us that interacts carefully and thoughtfully with our environment or with other people.  There is something calmly satisfying about such things. (Total aside – this reminds me of an episode of Spongebob in which he confessed he loves the sound that two pickles make when you rub them together.)

But of course not everyone gets a definite tingling sensation in their head and spine as a result of this soft satisfaction. I always start my investigations of such phenomena by asking the most basic question – is it real? In this case, I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently (that is always the key, but it is a recent enough phenomenon that this appears to be true) experienced and described the same syndrome with some fairly specific details. In this way it’s similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.

Another way to address this question is to ask how plausible the phenomenon is. For reasons I will get into below, I think it is entirely plausible, or at least this is no obstacle to acceptance of ASMR as real.

So, with the small caveat that we are not completely sure at this time, it seems reasonable to proceed with the working assumption that ASMR is a real thing. If it is, then what’s going on. That is a matter for research. While there are references to research on the internet, it seems if any is happening at this time it is entirely descriptive. A PubMed search for ASMR (the full name, not the acronym) yielded exactly zero results. This could mean that there is a more technical term for ASMR and  I need to find out what that is, but I have not been able to find any other terms for ASMR. So if there is real research going on nothing has been published in the peer-reviewed literature so far.

Nicholas Tufnell wrote about his own experience with ASMR at the Huffington Post, and his description seems typical. I have never experienced this myself. I listened to the whispering in Latin video, which was eerily intimate at first, and then just a bit weird, although I always love listening to Latin. But I experienced no tingling or euphoria. The only thing in my life that I can relate to this is when I was a child very occasionally listening to a certain frequency of tapping, just about two per second, like a relentless monotonous beat, would “resonate” in my brain. I basically grew out of these experiences and have not had them for decades.

Looking back as a neurologist I have wondered what they were. They could even have been little seizures.  Seizures can be triggered by auditory stimuli. Perhaps ASMR is a type of seizure. Seizures can sometime be pleasurable, and can be triggered by these sorts of things.

Or, ASMR could just be a way of activating the pleasure response. Vertebrate brains are fundamentally hardwired for pleasure and pain – for positive and negative behavioral feedback. We are rewarded with a pleasurable sensation for doing things and experiencing things that increase our survival probability, and have a negative or painful experience to make us avoid harmful behavior or warn us about potential danger or injury. Over evolutionary time a complex set of reward and aversion feedbacks have developed.

Add to this the notion of neurodiversity – the fact that all of our human brains are not clones or copy cats, but vary in every possible way they can vary. We have a range of likes and dislikes, and there are individuals and even subcultures that seem to have a different pattern of pleasure stimulation than what is typical. (Perhaps in some cases this is largely cultural, not neurotypical.) S&M comes to mind. If reports are accurate, there are some people who experience pain as pleasurable and erotic.

Admittedly it gets very difficult teasing out learned associations and behaviors from innate hardwired ones, and all this applies to ASMR as well.

In any case it is plausible that a subset of the population has a particular pattern of neural hard wiring so that when they experience certain things that are typically quietly satisfying they get a little extra shot to their pleasure center. Once they experience this then they seek out greater and greater triggers of this response, and perhaps then a learning or conditioning component kicks in. Tufnell even describes getting a little addicted to seeking out ASMR stimuli.

What we need at this point are functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies that look at what is happening in the brains of people while experiencing ASMR, vs typical controls. Are their brains really different, and in what way? I also wonder if the same or similar experience can be artificially induced in typical (non-ASMR) people.

This is just another example of how our brains are fantastically complex and weird. How else can you explain the existence of videos of whispering Latin and wrapping paper noise on YouTube.

———-

Thanks to kwilliams1 for suggesting the topic.

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72 responses so far

72 Responses to “ASMR”

  1. Neilon 12 Mar 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I can attest to this being a real phenomenon, at least in that I experience what they’re describing, often when I get a haircut (for as long as I can remember). The most bizarre example of something that triggers this for me is when I get a free car wash with my oil change. Whenever I see people drying off my car, I get the intense feeling that they describe, but only for brief moment. I’m not really sure what that says about me. I don’t like people doing things for me, so I’ve always assumed I get the pleasure out of seeing somebody do work for me (work that I don’t enjoy doing) while I stand at a distance waiting, and for that moment I know that they don’t know whose car their drying off. In that way, it’s sort of temporary reprieve from a feeling of guilt. In other words, I think if I knew they knew the owners of each car ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t get that sensation. Yes, I’m weird.

  2. Daneel Olivawon 12 Mar 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I always get a tingly sensation in my neck when people touch my scalp, is that ASMR?

  3. ingsveon 12 Mar 2012 at 1:47 pm

    This also sounds a lot like how some people describe experiencing the presence of the holy ghost. This also fits with some of the triggers since it’s not uncommon for such reports to be in connection to listening to a sermon (accented or unique speech pattern) or a choir (enjoying art or music) for example.

  4. muletonicon 12 Mar 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Interesting. I’ve gotten a similar response from certain musical pieces – it’s a tingly head and body rush that happens at very particular points in a song, and it has very similar qualities to an orgasm. It’s even been so intense that I’ve had to pull over to the side of the road while driving and listening to music.

    It’s not often though – I probably have only about 30ish songs in my rather large collection that can do it.

  5. eeanon 12 Mar 2012 at 2:26 pm

    First I have heard of this but I guess I have it. For me it’s all about heavy-but-understandable accents (less often understandable-Spanish, a smallish subset of Spanish in my case). Or at least it used to be, I’ve moved to Europe (I’m American) recently so I’m probably getting over-stimulated. :)

    I think its happened during engaging college lectures, though many of my profs had accents, so I’m not sure if that’s separate.

    The “watching another person complete a task” doesn’t apply at all to me. The other listed triggers are nice of course, but not in any sort of strange way (whereas with the accents I remember wondering what the feeling was about and only figuring it out reasoning backwards).

  6. sowellfanon 12 Mar 2012 at 4:09 pm

    This really resonates with me – I actually clicked on the ‘whisper’ link before reading the rest of the article, and started wondering why listening to someone whisper can be so compelling.

    I’ve definitely experienced the calming/tingling scalp sensation, especially when watching other people do tasks. But in my experience, it’s more likely to happen if it’s a task that’s somewhat unfamiliar, but has somewhat elaborate steps/techniques that seem to demonstrate expertise and practice and really understanding what it takes to get a job done well. In particular there was a “Best Shoe Shiner in Istanbul” video that I somehow got pointed to a while back – and since then, I’ve seen vids of people getting very attentive shaves and such in barber shops that tend to evoke the same sort of sensation. This used to happen fairly often when I’d personally get haircuts in college – but I haven’t noticed it in a long time. I think it might have been heightened in those college haircuts because I often went to the barber after I’d done a huge all-nighter, then taken a test or turned in an assignment in the morning, and had nothing to do in the afternoon – so exhaustion could possibly make someone more susceptible.

  7. tmac57on 12 Mar 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Do any you who experience this sensation while getting a haircut,also ever get goose bumps on your arms if the sensation spreads down that far?

  8. Marshallon 12 Mar 2012 at 5:13 pm

    This is really interesting. I’ve always had this really weird feeling–where if something moves across my field of vision in one particular direction, it “feels good”–and the other direction “feels bad.” It’s hard to describe the feelings–the “bad” feeling is sort of similar to rubbing your hand over some rough velvet that gives you goosebumps in a bad way, and the “good” feeling is sort of like sinking into a bath of hot water.

    If I concentrate, I can change the direction that feels “good”–but it’s always either left-to-right or right-to-left. The direction even exists in my mind, if my eyes are closed–if close my eyes and move my hand across, then because I _know_ that that good direction is the one that my hand is moving in, it feels good.

    I’ve always wondered if it’s some weird mixup in my brain’s wiring that’s similar to Asberger’s or OCD–I feel a small compulsion to satisfy the urge, but I’ve suppressed it pretty significantly growing up (I’m 28 now). It definitely doesn’t dominate my experience at all, but it’s something that once in a while pokes its head into my consciousness.

  9. Potatoon 12 Mar 2012 at 6:13 pm

    First time I’ve heard the term, but it sounds like some experiences I’ve had. We were screwing around with it in the lab about 2 years ago with EEG and couldn’t see much, but then we deal with healthy volunteers so have no experience looking for epileptic-type activity, plus uncontrolled n=1 goofing around, etc. etc.

  10. Alexandraon 12 Mar 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Yup. Yup yup yup. I have a suspicion that “ASMR” as a term was just one of those magical language/meme things, where suddenly there’s a big “THAT’S IT!” moment and the term spread like wildfire.

    Since I was a child I loved that “tingly yet super-relaxed feeling” – originally triggered by gentle physical touch, like hairbrushing or playing “crack the egg on my head and feel it trickle”. As I got older I could almost duplicate that feeling by simply watching someone doing something gently, deliberately, and quietly – a soothing voice to accompany it is much better. Interesting that many people seem to remember this from childhood, but it may not carry on as well into adulthood.

    I’m no scientist, but I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t just an extension of the primate grooming response. Do chimpanzees relax and feel good when they watch other chimps grooming, not just when they’re being groomed themselves? I dunno.

    And could this response be the origin of the “woo” around Reiki and therapeutic touch? I’m about as non-wooey as they come, but it wouldn’t surprise me that such a pleasurable “tingly” feeling could be attributed to energies, meridians*, or magic. Bit of Googling “asmr reiki” shows that idea has occurred to others as well. Wonder if palm-readers, tarot card readers, psychics, etc. have mastered this too. Could it even be related to responses to meditation and hypnosis?

    *Came across a great comment on a Metafilter discussion about this : “This needs a name that doesn’t involve the word “meridian,” stat.” :)

  11. delictuscoelion 12 Mar 2012 at 9:34 pm

    The gift wrapping sounds definitely did it a little bit for me, and I have definitely had similar experiences with music. I actually did get a bit of a tingle from the introductory portion of the Latin video, although hearing the Vulgate with Classical pronunciation was distracting enough to kill it once she got started reading.

    I think a reasonable explanation for whispering is the implied intimacy of a whispered conversation, and some other triggering sounds might work because they resemble the sonic patterns of whispering to some degree.

    I wonder, though, if the response is at all conditioned by expectation? Especially when searching for ASMR videos on the internet, is seems likely that expecting to be triggered by a video might make one more likely to be triggered.

  12. michelleskon 12 Mar 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I know the sensation but have never really thought about what triggers it, now I am going to start paying attention.

    Weirdly, reading the comments on this article made it happen – why would reading about other people’s experiences trigger it?

  13. SARAon 12 Mar 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Certain music makes me feel “extra” in some direction or another. But I’m not sure its this sensation. The only time I recall feeling something similar is when I was in a bible camp and the entire group sang together for about an hour.

    I assumed then it was god. Now I think it was the intensity of the group connection. All of us focused on doing this beautiful thing. So, I’m not sure it qualifies here.

    I really am jealous of anyone who can trigger such a positive feeling with such an easy trigger.

  14. banyanon 12 Mar 2012 at 10:20 pm

    See also Koyaanisqatsi and similar films.

  15. willradikon 13 Mar 2012 at 12:24 am

    I have sometimes gotten a feeling like this while looking at books about biochemical processes. Of course, this could just be an intense enjoyment of biology. I don’t think I felt anything like intense tingling. But it is a remarkably sudden, intense rush of enjoyment at the realization of how a protein does this or that or the revelation of an interesting pathway. Neat stuff.

  16. Mlemaon 13 Mar 2012 at 2:06 am

    Night has fallen. A soft RAIN begins. You and I, and the rest of our little group are back in the cave. It’s warm and dry. A CRACKLING fire is burning. Someone is chewing something CRUNCHY. An older man tells a story about the day in a SLOW PARTICULAR VOICE, unlike the shouts from each of us as we worked through the day. Then he is silent. You and I are WHISPERING as we GROOM each other. Then, silence, but for the CLACKING of stone on stone as a tool is fashioned. Hypnotized by the thing taking shape under the repetitive strokes, I feel myself relax. The parasympathetic nervous system takes over.

    I feel pleasure. And sleep is coming.

    The internet provides the whole world access to the cave, where obliging kinsfolk relax one another (sans grooming)

  17. Michaelon 13 Mar 2012 at 2:32 am

    Two things I would like to chuck in here,

    First, I can attest to the real nature of this: I have experienced it many times – This is the first time that someone else has ever described the same thing.
    To add my 2 cent piece: I find I get it – yes sometimes when getting a haircut – but not as intensely as when I am listening attentively to someone who I looked up to in some way – usually involving an appreciation of some knowledge or skill the other person has + a personal interaction.

    For example:
    -appreciation of a delicate and good hair dressing while they are cutting your hair meets both these criteria
    - More strongly however the feeling seems to manifest when I’m listen to someone who is older and wiser than me about anything. – the more close and personal the conversation (ie 1 on 1) the greater the feeling can be.

    I for one would love to know what’s going on in the brain here. I think braingasm is an apt name for this.

    The second point I’d like to make is a personal thank you to Dr Novella – I started reading this blog during my first year of biomedical science at university last year – took a critical thinking course on the side too. I must say its always been a great read, well referenced and I often find myself shifting through your older posts – especially brain/medicine related!
    Now whenever I think about anything I always don my “skeptical” hat!

    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  18. S.on 13 Mar 2012 at 10:50 am

    I think this article gave me a mild ASMR :)

  19. Enzoon 13 Mar 2012 at 11:26 am

    For people looking to try and trigger this sensation, this might be of interest:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/asmr

    For me…Haircuts, teaching something to children, inspiring speeches (Independence Day, anyone?) and things like that.

  20. hcuevaon 13 Mar 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I find it a bit disconcerting that just because Steve said that it COULD be real, suddenly every “skeptic” fan in the comments lost all critical thinking and assumed it to be real.

  21. Karl Withakayon 13 Mar 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting,

    “- Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures”

    “- Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner – examples would be filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.”

    I wonder if this is even partially responsible for the success of the Science Channel show “How It’s Made”.

  22. Karl Withakayon 13 Mar 2012 at 12:29 pm

    hcueva,

    Not just that, but a lot of responses of the “I can tell you it’s real because it happens to me” type.

    It may be real and it may happen to you, but as a skeptic, I would say that just because you believe you experience ASMR does not necessarily make it a real, neurological phenomenon or that it happens to you.

    For example,

    Many people claim that out of body near death experiences are real (in that their souls actually left their bodies during clinical death) because they have experienced them.

    Many people know acupuncture/homeopathy/etc works because it worked for them.

    Many people claim they know UFOs are real alien flying saucers because they have personally seen them.

    I’m not saying I think ASMR is improbable (as the examples are), but as a skeptic I would be more likely to say “this seems to correspond with something I think I experience.” rather than “I can tell you this is real because it happens to me.”

  23. DS1000on 13 Mar 2012 at 1:00 pm

    hcueva,

    Slow down there a little bit on your criticism. You’re forgetting about prior plausibility. That many people can get “chills” from neural responses to music, emotion, etc. is so plausible as to be almost not worth mentioning. It is drastically different from any phenomenon that invokes the assumption of aliens, gods, souls, and especially magical healing powers of diluted water.

  24. hcuevaon 13 Mar 2012 at 1:25 pm

    DS1000:

    The fact that something is plausible, doesn’t make it immune to conversion disorder, or whatever other form of delusion on the part of the person experiencing it.

    My point is just that a lot of comments here are very uncritical, considering the nature of our community.

    a) “I can attest to this being a real phenomenon”
    b) “First, I can attest to the real nature of this – I have experienced it many times”
    c) “First time I have heard of this, but I guess I have it”

    The NY girls that suddenly all acquired debilitating tics had a more compelling case than this.

    I’m not saying it is necessarily false, all I’m saying is that the fact that it is plausible (which is all that Steven really said), and the fact that people in the comments “have felt it”, doesn’t make it any more real than the dancing virus.

  25. braintingleson 13 Mar 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I run the braintingles channel on YouTube that features the ‘wrapping presents’ video mentioned in this article.

    It’s brilliant that a respected academic neurologist has written about the topic of ASMR, I really enjoyed the piece. I probably wouldn’t have found this had someone not written ‘Steven Novella brought me here’ in the comments section of the aforementioned video.

    Hopefully this will bring the topic to a wider audience.

    Thanks for an interesting read.

  26. gracekathrynon 13 Mar 2012 at 1:49 pm

    “In this way it’s similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.”

    I think we identified migraines as a syndrome prior to the age of the internet, so reports of common symptoms across the population were a lot more compelling. These days it seems like people feel odd, jump on the internet, and immediately diagnose themselves as having migraines, cfs, morgellons, autism spectrum, or whatever seems the most interesting to them at the time, even if their symptoms are only vaguely in the ballpark. How can we sort out the legitimacy of syndromes for which we have not yet identified any reliable biological markers? Surely reports of common experience aren’t sufficient. Is it just plausibility? I’m thinking of Morgellons, alien abduction, out-of-body experiences, etc. Most commonly with alien abduction, we believe that “abductees” share common stories because they, consciously or not, form their stories using the mythology that’s available in the media, e.g., science fiction and reports from other “abductees”. We don’t give any credence to their reports of the same constellation of symptoms/experiences. I know “close encounters” aren’t really the same as medical conditions, but certainly the victims claim to manifest physical symptoms like sleep paralysis, memory loss, black outs, etc.

  27. PHIGuyon 13 Mar 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I’ll add my anecdotal evidence to the pile. My favourite sources of that amazing feeling are:
    1. Reading in a library and hearing the whispering
    2. Getting the electric clipper cut around the ears and the back of the neck at a barber shop (also the sound of the scissors and comb clicking)
    3. Instructional videos on fly tying
    4. Any Bob Ross show

  28. Steven Novellaon 13 Mar 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I think we have to distinguish between concluding that an experience is happening vs hypotheses as to what is causing the experience.

    People report having out of body experiences, and they report having near death experiences.

    We can hypothesize that
    - They are not having these experiences and the reports are a combination of delusions, copy cats, suggestibility, attention seekers, or misintepreted other experiences, etc.
    - They are having these experiences

    This in itself is a difficult distinction to make, because experience is ultimately subjective. We can infer probability from consistency of reports, especially if they appear to be independent (historical accounts, accounts in other cultures, etc.) and consistent in specific details. Once you get cultural saturation, however, you can no longer do this.

    Now we also have the potential to confirm the experiences are a distinct entity with fMRI, but that is still tricky.

    So – we can also say, if we assume these experiences are real, what might they be, and see if we can come up with anything plausbile or for which there is evidence.

    Here, I think we can say that a plausible explanation is that this is a neurological response to a certain type of stimuli, stimulating the reward/pleasure response. I think the grooming hypothesis is very plausible.

    Next – how do we test any plausible hypothesis? That is really tricky too. Again I think our best hope is fMRI. But psychologists also have some tricks for setting up experiments of this type of thing, using stealth triggers, etc.

  29. etatroon 13 Mar 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I read this post wondering if this has ever happened to me and then reading over some peoples’ attestations to having experienced the phenomenon….. I think it happens to me when I listen to certain music. Particularly Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto, Holst’s the Planets (Mars & Neptune), and a few others like John Williams’ Star Wars themes (which he took from Stravinsky’s rite of spring, but rite of spring doesn’t do it for me). I like to think that I have experienced this en masse with a large group of people at a symphony concert, when, at the apex of the Mars movement, the audience was palpably enraptured, they broke tradition and applauded between movements, the conductor just shrugged, smiled & bowed. I always thought it was a human-music thing. Our brains & ears are attuned to find pleasure at certain harmonies and musical themes. I think that there’s some theory behind what musical themes induce particular responses (like a minor chord having a more energetic/frantic “feeling” than a major chord). I don’t know for sure but I imagine that other mammals experience similar things with certain sounds. I will have to pay attention to may favorite inter-species test subject (my dog) in the future & see how he responds to music & sounds. I know he likes Star Trek Voyager but dislikes Walking Dead.

  30. hcuevaon 13 Mar 2012 at 4:59 pm

    “So, with the small caveat that we are not completely sure at this time, it seems reasonable to proceed with the working assumption that ASMR is a real thing.”

    Steven, but why would it be reasonable to proceed with the assumption that these experiences are real (as opposed to conversion disorder type of delusion)?

    To just assume that they are, even for the sake of the hypothesis cause exercise, generates 20 comments worth of “yup, it happened to me, it’s real” and “i’m the guy that started the fad on youtube, thanks for validating my belief”.

    In fact, I would argue this has all the red flags of conversion disorder, and it’d be more reasonable to start with that assumption.

  31. gracekathrynon 13 Mar 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I would argue that, by the time there are >5000 YouTube search results for a given topic, cultural saturation has been achieved :)

  32. tmac57on 13 Mar 2012 at 6:04 pm

    gracekathryn- Of course those >5000 hits could all be from the person who posted it rechecking every 2 minutes to see how many hits it has ;)

  33. MisterFoolon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I didn’t realize there was a name for this experience, but I have had it too, and I can trigger it at will whenever I want to. It’s basically a warm, tingling sensation in the back of the neck that spreads over the rest of my body, triggering goosebumps. If I concentrate on it it can become overwhelming. If I weren’t a skeptic I might suppose it was chi or something.

    I thought this was something everyone could do and figured it was some sort of brain chemical release. Am I unusual in being able to trigger it without external stimuli? I’d volunteer to be studied but I hear sitting in an MRI is quite tedious.

  34. ConspicuousCarlon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:38 pm

    hcueva on 13 Mar 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I find it a bit disconcerting that just because Steve said that it COULD be real, suddenly every “skeptic” fan in the comments lost all critical thinking and assumed it to be real.

    Straw man. Nobody said or implied that they were using such reasoning. Not very skeptical of you.

    My point is just that a lot of comments here are very uncritical, considering the nature of our community.

    a) “I can attest to this being a real phenomenon”

    Neil qualified that with “, at least in that I experience what they’re describing, “. You intentionally cut off the part where he acknowledges that his statement only applies to his experience matching a description. That’s not just unskeptical on your part, it’s almost deceptive.

    The NY girls that suddenly all acquired debilitating tics had a more compelling case than this.
    …[and]…
    but why would it be reasonable to proceed with the assumption that these experiences are real (as opposed to conversion disorder type of delusion)?

    The first case includes a claim of a non-established and implausible cause, which you imply to be a psychological effect. Not only are people here not claiming to know the actual mechanism for ASMR, but the it sounds like it is assumed to be merely a psychological effect so your dichotomy isn’t even that.

  35. soyaroon 13 Mar 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I have these symptoms(and a truckload of other strange things). But the tingling sensation can activated by a lot of things, the euphoria is only rarely(I’ve assumed everyone had these until now).
    Anyway, the more interesting thing is that they get somewhat more intense, but not more common by dopaminergic drugs, more common and extremely intense and common by hallucinogens(5HT2A agonists) and dissociotives, nicotine, caffeine or zolpidem doesn’t effect them in anyway.

    The second thing that I have and very much like this is HPPD. It’s strange, because I’ve always had it, so I thought that everyone had it and never saw it as anything abnormal or it never posed as an obstacle to me. And I know that it’s self diagnosis, but I’ve had the symptoms since I can remember(also I’m an f–ed up deviant etc. etc.).

  36. gracekathrynon 13 Mar 2012 at 7:02 pm

    @tmac, that’s >5000 search results for ASMR. Some of which have >150k hits/views!

    BTW, here’s my own anecdote: I can’t bring myself to watch any of these. Just the idea of watching a video of crackling paper, someone whispering something I can’t understand, fingers tapping on a desk, or any of the others is triggering a small amount of anxiety. My shoulders and neck tense up, my stomach feels twisted, and my heart seems to beat faster and louder. I must have anti-ASMR, because these videos sound terrible to me. Like fingernails on a chalkboard or someone chewing loudly in your ear.

  37. siodineon 13 Mar 2012 at 11:33 pm

    This happens to me. I’ve always called it “frisson,” though. A lot of fans of music have similar experiences with certain pieces of music, as I do (reddit.com/r/frisson). However, I have the same experience with getting a haircut or having my head touched, or even sometimes randomly (the best; can last for tens of minutes if I don’t move). Honestly, it’s better than sex, but different; it’s like a powerful muscle relaxant and an overwhelming feeling of bliss pours from your neck into your body.

  38. fudgeh0gon 14 Mar 2012 at 12:58 am

    OK, I can identify with the description of ASMR as Steve stated it:

    “- Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns
    - Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures”

    One of my triggers is both of these in one: I had a teacher at school who had really unusual speech and as a small child would always ask him to explain what we were supposed to be doing, even though I understood, because it made the back of my neck tingle. Sounds kind of kinky now but I can assure you it wasn’t, haha.

    “- Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner – examples would be filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.”

    And again, watching someone draw or paint has this effect on me.

    I can best describe it as a warm tingle that startes at the nape of the neck and spreads upwards across the back of my skull like fingers through my hair. If it continues for an extended period (paintings can take a while!) i feel slightly lightheaded.

    But for me it’s _different_ to the tingles or chills I get from music or touching poetry.

    just my anecdotal 2c worth…

  39. sowellfanon 14 Mar 2012 at 3:28 pm

    @ Fudgeh0g: The sensation primarily described in this article is also totally different for me from what I feel listening to a really stirring piece of music (i.e. Planets, etc.), or inspirational speech, or from what I felt during a “good” worship service back when I went to church.

  40. tmac57on 16 Mar 2012 at 8:13 pm

    MisterFool- I can trigger the exact same sensation that you are describing,but I haven’t been able to figure out if this is what people are describing here (see the Wiki entry on Frisson/cold chill,which is what you and I seem to be experiencing).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_chill
    It seems clear to me that at least some of these descriptions fit ‘frisson’,but not everyone reports the cold chill aspect.I have good control of it,and I can, actually, limit the sensation to my head and neck,and if I do that,and don’t let it spread to my arms and lower body,then I don’t experience the cold chill part of the wave,just the tingly warm sensation in the back of my head,neck,and ears.
    It would be