Are you one of the millions of people that watch ASMR videos?
Or, are you like me, and you’re not sure what all the fuss is about? ASMR videos split people into two camps; those that cannot do without it and those that find it intensely irritating. It has to be said, however, whether you find it annoying or not, it has helped millions of people worldwide. So what are these ASMR videos?
The theory behind ASMR Videos
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is a tingling sensation that goes over your scalp and your body in response to a form of stimulation. This stimulation can be visual, auditory or even olfactory.
The term was coined by Jennifer Allen back in 2010. She started a Facebook page in order to find out more about it. The best way to try and understand it is to think of another kind of response called ‘musical frisson’. This is that goose bump feeling we get when we listen to a piece of music we emotionally connect to.
So what exactly are these ASMR videos? Well, they vary, but they typically feature a softly-spoken woman either whispering, rustling paper, tapping, scratching, folding towels, stroking feathers, generally carrying out some mundane repetitive task.
For those that are not affected by ASMR, the videos can look plain silly. However, for the fans, it is an entirely different matter. Some claim they reduce anxiety, others watch them because they cannot sleep, and some say that it lifts depression.
How do ASMR videos work?
No one is actually sure, but research is ongoing. For example, Bryson Lochte is a post-baccalaureate fellow and studied ASMR for his senior thesis in neuroscience at Dartmouth College.
“We focused on those areas in the brain associated with motivation, emotion and arousal to probe the effect A.S.M.R. has on the ‘reward system’ — the neural structures that trigger a dopamine surge amid pleasing reinforcements, like food or sex.” Bryson Lochte
In addition, Mathias Benedek, a research assistant at the University of Graz in Austria, has studied musical frisson. He believes that ASMR is simply a softer, more calming version of it.
Going back to musical frisson for one moment, there are obviously certain songs that cause some people intense pleasure and joy. These same songs may not affect other people in the same way. This part of ASMR videos I can understand.
There are a few songs that when I play them, I feel completely connected to the music. It’s as if my brain is a radio and I am searching for the perfect wavelength. When I hear a particular song, my brain tunes into this wavelength and I feel as if I am floating within the song. I am in the zone, experiencing it on another level.
I didn’t realise, but listening to these peak emotional moments in music causes the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone. It is important where this dopamine is released. As a matter of fact, it goes into the most reptilian part of our brains, the part that responds to other rewarding triggers such as drugs.
This is the reasoning behind ASMR videos. There has to be an exact trigger for the person to respond in this way.
Steven Novella, Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, said:
“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.”
There’s evidence to suggest that this subset of the population share particular personality traits. They are – ‘openness to experience’ and ‘neuroticism’. This would suggest that ASMR appeals to people with anxiety, depression or other mental ailments who are willing to try new things.
As you would expect, there are all kinds of ASMR videos on the internet. After all, human beings are unique creatures. We all have our own idiosyncrasies and foibles when it comes to pleasure. As such, there are numerous triggers and many people out there willing to cater to them.
Types of ASMR Videos
- A softly-spoken person reciting soothing words
- Sorting out playing cards
- Going through the contents of a purse
- Stroking a feather across a microphone
- Inspecting an item carefully in detail
- An educational or instructional video
- Watching a person complete a mundane task
- Drumming keys or fingers on a desk
These ASMR videos might all appear completely random to the non-user, but they do all have one thing in common. That is, they all tap into the part of the brain that deals with interaction with the environment around us.
I don’t think I have this particular response, but there are things I find intensely relaxing. The sound of an aeroplane overhead always zones me out. I imagine it has something to do with the pitch of the sound. Again, the smell of bonfires immediately transports me back to happy times spent in festival tents. So maybe there is something to this AMSR stuff.
I believe this is the closest I am personally going to get to understanding the rise of these ASMR videos. For the most part, I get the zoning out bit that relaxes you. Perhaps these videos are just another way for the brain to switch off, shut down and be still for a while. And we all need that once in a while.
Check out the video below, does it have any effect on you? Please share your experiences in the comments below!