Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

woman-neckAutonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a sensory phenomenon characterized by a tingling, static-like sensation on the scalp and the back of the neck. It typically creates a calming sensation that can extend throughout the entire body. ASMR can occur as a response to visual, audio, touch, smell, or cognitive stimuli.

What Is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response?

Autonomous sensory meridian response is experienced as a combination of tingling sensations on the skin, positive feelings, and relaxation. ASMR has not been rigorously scientifically examined, and much of what is collectively known about it exists as anecdotal evidence.

According to many of those studying ASMR informally, the term was coined in 2010 when a lady from New York named Jennifer Allen started a Facebook group dedicated to this sensation. In a short time, it attracted the attention of some within scientific community, but very little formal research has been conducted so far. ASMR is very popular on YouTube, where people have posted videos using different sounds to try and trigger this state. These videos usually include whispering, talking, tapping, and scratching sounds.

ASMR Triggers

There are two types of ASMR episodes:

  • Type A episodes occur with no external stimuli, but instead specific thought patterns. Patterns that trigger the sensation vary for each person.
  • Type B episodes require external stimulation of one or more senses.

Although individual differences play an important role in triggering ASMR, there are certain external stimuli that commonly trigger this state for many people. They include:

  • Exposure to accented and slow speech patterns, usually a whisper
  • Receiving personal and close attention from another person
  • Immersion in a piece of art
  • Haircuts
  • Being touched softly on the back of the neck or head by someone else

ASMR and Mental Health

Many people who experience autonomous sensory meridian response have reported that it helps them to relax and fall asleep. Some in the informal research community conclude that ASMR can provide a temporary relief for those experiencing chronic pain, depression, and stress.

Because voluntarily triggering ASMR usually requires a person to watch or listen to relaxing videos and recordings in silence, there are some similarities between ASMR, meditation, and mindfulness. People trying to trigger ASMR focus on positive emotions aroused by certain stimuli, and then direct their attention exclusively to them. With further research, ASMR may eventually be categorized as an exercise in mindfulness meditation. Further scientific investigation of this sensory phenomenon and the available evidence may even reveal additional therapeutic potential.

Reference:

  1. ASMR Research and Support. (n.d.). Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Retrieved from http://www.asmr-research.org/
  2. ASMR University. (2014). A scientist’s view of the term “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”. Retrieved from http://asmruniversity.com/2014/08/03/scientist-view-term-autonomous-sensory-meridian-response/
  3. Barratt, E. L., and & Davis, N. J. (2014). Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): A flow-like mental state. Swansea University, Swansea, UK. Retrieved from https://peerj.com/preprints/719v1.pdf
  4. The ASMR Lab. (n.d.). ASMR – That’s what that head tingling is. What is ASMR? Retrieved from http://www.asmrlab.com/

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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