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by Steven Novella, Mar 12 2012

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 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.

132 Responses to “ASMR”

  1. Max says:

    Ever watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross?

  2. Baker says:

    I have noticed over the years that when talking to certain call center employees (particularly with slow speaking, soothing voices) that a sensation similar to what you have described has occurred. I never thought anymore about it, and it always passes in about a minute or two. Interesting to hear others experience the same!

  3. Retired Prof says:

    Your description of ASMR sounds remarkably similar to the experiences described by an acquaintance of mine, a Charismatic Christian, as “getting the Spirit” (I’m not sure that’s his exact term) in church. I don’t think he has the feeling regularly; it is something to be sought, but seems to appear spontaneously when it does. That feeling is proof to him that God exists.

  4. Walter says:

    One of my deep, dark secrets is that I too watch/subscribe to “whisper videos” and videos of people getting haircuts, massages, etc. I just find them relaxing to watch and they help me get to sleep. I often struggle to go to sleep even when I’m tired, because sometimes my mind is racing with a hundred thoughts a minute, and the videos help me focus on a single image and drown out the rest. I don’t prescribe anything mystical or even scientific about them — they’re just something I’ve found useful.

    That said, many of the “whisper” videos, at least, are frustratingly New Age — the presenters often referring to crystals, “hypnosis,” or spiritual powers. I’m also not sure I like the term “braingasm” being used to describe the videos. I don’t find them in the least bit erotic, and that description makes the habit seem more than a little creepy.

    • edenscancer says:

      I am actually a skeptic, a humanist, and an atheist, who over the last year or so has been tuning into the whole ASMR thing. I have actually experienced it for some time but have never known exactly what to call it and just thought I was either…

      A) weird
      B) everyone had it.

      …Anyways, I was considering doing a “one with the universe” ASMR cd, wherein I follow the beginning of the universe, the big bang, abiogenesis etc in a calming fashion, depicted from a piece of stardust.

      • nicole says:

        Hah! I thought exactly that too:
        “I have actually experienced it for some time but have never known exactly what to call it and just thought I was either…
        A) weird
        B) everyone had it.”
        Well said!

  5. Max says:

    Whispering is even more eerily intimate in 3D holophonic sound.
    Listen to this with good quality stereo earbuds

  6. Jason Goertzen says:

    I have had this experience many, many times, since I was a kid, and have always gotten strange looks when trying to describe it. I am glad it has a name that I can now use to point people to better descriptions than I can muster.

  7. starskeptic says:

    I’m glad this phenomenon has an actual name to it – now I can order them by the case…

  8. tmac57 says:

    I can induce,just by concentrating, a warm tingling that starts at the back of my head that spreads to my ears,then down my neck and back and into my arms,at which point I get goose bumps on my forearms.I can do this at will in cascading waves,and even if it is hot outside I can raise goose bumps.
    I don’t know if this is anything like what these people are experiencing,but it is a very pleasant feeling,and distinctly tingly.I have never met,to my knowledge,anyone else who can do this,but I’m sure that there must be lots of people who can.

    • starskeptic says:

      That would be a type ‘A’ episode – for those of you scoring at home…

    • ConditionOfMan says:

      tmac57, I have the same experiences you are describing. It usually is triggered first, in me, by getting chills (like coming inside from the heat through a doorway with fans/AC). Only then am I able to continue the waves. I don’t think I would call it “pleasurable” but it is fun to experience it.

      • RJ says:

        My only quesiton is , How do I make it stop?

        I can self trigger, it is a nice feeling.

        Like others I have experienced for years but only recently heard the term. I tried to watch an imaginary haircut video today and had to stop halfway through because it was too much. i am going to watch an episode of the nanny and see if that turns it off…

    • mausphart says:

      I’m one that can self-trigger. I’m also triggered just by thinking about ASMR. Reading this article was a little bit nuts…

      • AdamM says:

        You took the words right outta my mouth.
        Does anyone else try to remain motionless whilst in asmr?
        I find that helps me prolong the experience.

    • Cody Brown says:

      Yeah thats it :D and it sounds like you’re good at it.

  9. Oli Grunfeld says:

    I hadn’t heard of ASMR before this piece but looking at that list there are a few items on there which immediately reminded me of hypnosis. And having just googled “ASMR and hypnosis” it clearly wasn’t an original thought!

    What caught my eye in the list were the “speech patterns”; the focus on a task in an attentive manner; close attention from another person; and the experience of high empathetic / sympathetic reactions to an event, and all of those are associated with hypnotic states. (That last one also made me think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which I also recall has been linked to subjects who are highly hypnotisable.)

    ASMR — an interesting phenomenon, whatever it is. Would be nice to see some further research.

    • Cody Brown says:

      I get ASMR. Have for as long as i can remember. Twice I have tried to have people put me into states of hypnosis and both times it triggered my ASMR, and both times I found the sensation so pleasurable that it distracted me and kept me from actually reaching a hypnotic state.

  10. Ivan says:

    oh if only I had an MRI at home :[

    Isn’t it unlikely that this will get researched? There’s no direct profit.

    @Steven: did you do a comparison between ASMR and Frisson?

  11. elizabeth hershoff says:

    Listening to Josh Groban sing love songs in Italian . Only the Italian ones. And when I was a kid-watching a bicycle wheel spin around, seeing the light through yellow leaves against a blue sky, hearing my dad rake in the garden, once in Florida-hearng ocean waves. Tingly is a good description. And when it happens I don’t want it to end. Which explains my credit card full of Josh Groban concert tickets .

  12. Willy says:

    Fascinating, just another example of what the brain can do and might do wrong, or maybe both at the same time.

    Even more fascinating is the fact that Steven watches Sponge Bob.

  13. Kenn says:

    When I was a kid I used to stare at the preacher during long sermons until I went ‘blind.’ It was a thought directed sensation.

    Neck tingling? Never experienced such a thing.

    What makes us shiver when we’re not cold?

    • Lola says:

      I did the same thing, and I associate it in my mind with the ASMR feeling because it was often accompanied by the pleasure sensation from the preacher’s quiet, sibilant voice. Maybe lots of people do the same thing.

      I’ve just learned about ASMR after having the experience my whole life. Unlike those who experience it only from certain, very specific stimuli, I seem to get it from almost every item mentioned in these and other comments.

  14. Adrian Morgan says:

    For a certain period after I was diagnosed with asperger’s syndome at age 11, I experienced an unpleasant tingling sensation whenever I read a word beginning with the letters A-U-T (as in autism). It was triggered, for example, by this.

    I grew out of this, and then dismissed it as a kind of abberation in my rationality. Haven’t thought about it in years. But it’s something for you to ponder. Wonder if anyone here has had a parallel experience.

  15. Chris says:

    Wow, I thought I was the only person who experienced this (nobody else I have described it to has had the experience)!

    I sometimes get this when I am having a meeting with someone and they are explaining something to me in a soothing voice. This happened last weekend when the mortgage advisor was explaining all the different products I was eligable for.

    It is quite different from feeling sleepy or bored, indeed I usually have very good recollection of what is being said. I would describe it as a feeling of extreme comfort and relaxation. I have wondered, in the past, if it was linked to the process of hypnosis.

    This article has made my day!

  16. Dave Rockwell says:

    I’ve had this experience all my life. I associate it strongly with my experiencing an emerging understanding of a complex, high-order realization. I’m pretty sure I felt it when I first understood the Pythagorean theorem, or evolution, of how a spreadsheet works, and certainly when I deeply felt certain musical works. Some of those pieces of music can induce it every time, if I listen with full attention. There is a very positive emotion associated with it. One might speculate that this is some sort of evolved reward for successfully using the brain for complex realization, analogous to the reward for procreation given by orgasm. Too bad it is not nearly as strong or reliable an effect.

  17. John H says:

    Different strokes and different standards for different folks, it appears. Any of the usual suspects in the woo fold would have been soundly berated if they had published this, and rightly so. A catchy acronym, some anecdotes, and speculation by an authoritative figure on possible mechanisms, amount to near certainty (taken as the logical complement to your “small caveat”) that it’s real? This is a test, isn’t it?

  18. beenert says:

    I too have had this sensation. It always occurs while someone is doing something intricate and I am watching. I try not to move in the hopes that the feeling will last but it usually goes away after 1 to 5 minutes. I remember having the sensation much more as a child/adolescent then now. Thanks for the article. Maybe I will try the other triggers and see if they work as well.

  19. LovleAnjel says:

    That happens to me! I didn’t know it was a “thing”, I just thought I was weird (I have a secret penchant for newagey massage videos and watching makeovers on HSN). Some voices trigger it as well – I was interviewing a candidate for a job last week and it kicked in when she was describing her research.

    I have had it since I was a kid – I remember having friends read out loud to me because it felt good.

    Anyone getting a study for this I am up for sitting in an MRI and watching some chakra re-alignment.

  20. Robert Oerter says:

    I experience this with exactly one particular piece of music (usually, not every time). The music is Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi – that wonderful run up to the high notes just before the end. I had assumed it was a sort of mild synesthesia.

    I just happen to be learning to play this piece at the moment. I wonder if it will increase or decrease the sensation, or not?

    • Cody Brown says:

      My guess is that it will increase the feeling. But not when you’re actually playing it. just listening. For me, and most of the other reports I’ve read it’s got a lot to do with observing others perform tasks. Rather than actually performing them yourself.

  21. Vancha says:

    Hello from the ASMR sub-reddit (you’ve been linked there). I was slightly worried to see what I’d find when I saw there was an article about it on a site called skepticblog, but you didn’t tear it to pieces after all.

    The name is unfortunate (especially as it contains “meridian”), but it seems to have stuck firm. There’s no changing it now except maybe if it’s scientifically redefined.

    Admittedly, it sounds suspiciously like woo, and the amount of people who confuse it with frisson or other sensations doesn’t help matters, but the sheer amount of people who’ve experienced this *before* discovering it’s a “thing” that has a name leads me to believe it’s a definite reality.

    As you say, there’s zero proper research into this. People have theories (I mean, hypotheses), but there’s always someone they doesn’t seem to apply to. It could certainly benefit from an MRI machine and a neurologist or two…

    • tmac57 says:

      Vancha- I had never bothered to look up the word ‘frisson’ until you wrote this,but having looked at the Wiki entry,I have to question your statement of “…people who confuse it with frisson or other sensations doesn’t help matters”

      From Wikipedia entry on Frisson:

      Unlike shivering, however, it is not caused by temperature, menopause, or anxiety but rather is an emotionally triggered response when one is deeply affected by things such as music,[2] speech[3] or recollection.

      That sounds to me exactly like what most of the descriptions that I have been seeing both here and on Neurologica are describing (especially when people talk about getting it when someone is cutting/grooming their hair).
      I can accept that you are having a unique experience that doesn’t fit that description,but I am dead sure that this is what at least some, if not most of the people commenting are describing.
      I guess the question is:Who gets to decide what the ‘symptoms’ of ASMR are,and is it really a distinct phenomenon,or a collection of disparate sensations that is looking for a home?

      • Max says:

        Sounds similar to fight-or-flight response when someone violates your personal space, as in cutting your hair or whispering in your ear. I guess when it’s expected, it can be relaxing.

      • Vancha says:

        You kind of proved my point. The descriptions are similar, so people confuse them for the same thing.

        Frisson is the buzz you get when hearing exhilarating music or an inspirational speech, which is different to the tingles of ASMR which is far more about relaxation.

        You could be right about ASMR being disparate sensations though. There’s also the shivers people get with nails on a chalkboard and such, which also seems to be a nameless phenomenon (I’ve occasionally seen it dubbed as the anti-ASMR).

      • Tracy says:

        Just today, I discovered there were others like me. It’s amazing because I’ve tried to describe it to others in the past, and never met anyone who had the foggiest notion what I was describing.
        I’m inclined to agree with Vancha about the frisson – at least in my case. I would not at all describe it as an emotional experience. It’s more of a hypnotic trance with small waves or tingles. Very pleasureable, but not in an emotional way.
        In my case, I get it from watching someone engaged in a concentrated and methodical task, usually something for me. Haircuts, of course, but also getting my oil changed at the place where I can remain in my car, having my car washed, also while I sit inside. Shoeshines! But also watching someone fill out forms and the like.
        I’ve had experiences of tingles down my spine from an emotional response to a movie trailer or scene, or a piece of music, but that’s completely different experience from what most of us are trying to describe.

  22. Kevin says:

    Interesting – this phenomenon was responsible for me staying with the (“full gospel” Christian, similar to Pentecostal in some ways) church for as long as I did. When people would lay hands on me, or during certain styles of hymn, I would feel a pleasurable tingling in my skull which would spread down through my spine and arms. I told my father it was like a gentle fire in my bones, and he said it was the Holy Spirit in me.

    I eventually learned that secular music could do the same thing, as well as “big ideas” from speculative fiction, cosmology, or a particularly good programming session, which thankfully let me drop religion and focus on reality.

    • Basil Seal says:

      FWIW, there are Buddhist and Christian sects that counsel their adherents NOT to pay much attention to pleasurable physical sensations that arise in the course or prayer or meditation. The rationale being that one may construe the pleasurable sensation as a sort of feedback mechanism indicating a prayer well done. The problem is that, from the religious perspective, a prayer’s soundness has more to do with the interior disposition of the person making the prayer and little to do with obtaining a pleasurable sensation. After all many things can induce this state (Bob Ross, NPR, whispering, etc) but none of these things are prayer.

      Of course all that isn’t religion isn’t necessarily reality either. I’ve found that Garrison Keillor’s monologues on Prairie Home Companion can induce this state fairly reliably for me. Not out of any great interest in the actual content but something that has more to do with the pitch of his voice and the cadence of his speech. He could be reading the phone book for all I care.

      I tend to think that a good deal of NPR’s audience might be explained by this phenomenon. A number of their on-air hosts seem to strive to hit that same register. Terry Gross, for example. And, apparently, I’m not the only one susceptible to this induced state. It strains credulity that it follows from actual interest in the content – Keillor hasn’t written or performed anything interesting in years and NPR itself tedious beyond belief yet they attract devotees all the same. And church-like they interrupt the programming periodically to shake you down for money.

      So if this is a real thing — and I think it is — it seems like the sort of thing that could be exploited by charlatans both secular and religious.

  23. James says:

    I first experienced this phenomenon when getting “lice checks” in elementary school. Volunteer moms would kind of sort thru your hair with chopsticks to try to locate lice. The sensation would leave me in an almost catatonic state.

    • Khelz says:

      Wow! James… Thank you so much. I had been trying to think of the first time I experienced this feeling when I read your comment and Kablaam! :) There it was.

      After thinking a little harder it seems to me that the sensation was at its strongest when I was watching the kids in front of me get their examination. I remember the whole classroom becoming more subdued than usual and the whole process would carry out in near silence.

      It makes me wonder if others there were experiencing similar sensations…?

      Anyhow, since then I have had the same “tingling sensation” whenever I watch somebody perform a task which requires their full, soundless, attention and who is usually moving with slow, deliberate motions. A good example would be someone working on a jigsaw puzzle. And I often play chess just for said effect. However, if the movement is too fast, or too noisy, it usually fails to initiate.

      Also, I am apparently one of the ones who can initiate the feeling on command. Being in a relaxed environment is key, but again, it doesn’t always work.

      I am quite pleased that I read this article today. Knowing that I’m not alone and insane is comforting. :)

  24. ASMR Freak says:

    I’ll just leave this here:

  25. Jay Hova says:

    I used to get this all the time in College whenever I would find a lesson to be particularly absorbing, and of course when getting a haircut. In fact, often I’ll get a haircut just so I can experience that tingly goodness. Definitely always accompanied by a feeling of extreme contentment, very peaceful. I can see how a religious person might link this to God, and I would imagine people who practice meditation are seeking something similar. Funny how some people are content to experience this phenomena as it is while others feel the need to fit it into some sort of mythology.

  26. Beth says:

    Yes! I am so excited to have found a name for this and other people who have it, I am greedily Googling and posting comments all over the place.

    I’ve had it all my life. When I was a kid I would say my head was fizzing. I used to try to describe it by saying it felt like someone was pouring Pepsi in my head. Then as I got older I settled on the description of goosebumps on my brain. But that doesn’t begin to describe the powerful sensation. It’s really intense and relaxing. Mine are triggered specifically by people being unexpectedly nice to me. Occasionally they’ll just start spontaneously, usually in the morning. But mostly they have to be triggered. Sometimes I can trigger them myself by imagining a situation where someone is being nice to me. But when I trigger them myself they generally aren’t quite as intense and don’t last as long.

  27. Corry Frydlewicz says:

    I can’t imagine being comfortable and relaxed in a MRI machine. That might throw off some data received by such tests :-P

  28. Ozgur Konstantin Kazancci says:

    “How else can you explain the existence of videos of whispering Latin” : Reincarnation!

  29. Jb says:

    I definitely don’t believe it is a seizure. Very skeptical of that.

    I had asmr experiences all the time as a child. Things that triggered it were watching someone color. I have a very specific memory of it happening when my class was checked for lice by the nurse.

    I think bob Ross has become the definitive test on this. If he doesn’t trigger it, I don’t know what else can for you.

  30. raptor says:

    Rain and thunders are a very powerful trigger for me. I guess the combination of both (soft and intimidating) is a strong release of sudden body reactions.

    Do you like the rain? How does it make you feel? Listen to the following video:


  31. Akio says:

    This is crazy! Basically I have been experiencing this since I was a kid. My first memory of my brain tingles was in elementary school watching someone use the pencil crayon that they borrowed from me.

    Ever since then every so often certain things trigger it. It could be watching someone get a massage to something as simple as watching a co-worker un-stick a sticker off some packaging.

    I started looking up youtube videos of head massages recently because it helps me relax before I go to sleep. I mentioned this to some friends and they all think I am insane. It wasn’t until tonight that I discovered this ASMR phenomenon through one of the youtube videos I was watching. I can’t believe there are so many other people who experience this!!

  32. Andy says:

    Very interesting. I do practice meditation and believe one of the feelings that I know from sucessful meditation practice is the same thing as ASMR.

    In meditation it is associated with a state of mind in which the brain is in a very peaceful, serene frequency; a state in which mental tension, as for example we experience with strong emotions (like desire or fear) is very much reduced.

    If it is the same state, it actually is very healthy and beneficial. In this state the mind is very receptive to bodily sensations and able to perceive rather subtle. One can learn a lot about oneself by just listening to the body in this state.

  33. Illuminaughty says:

    I’ve experienced ASMR as long as I can remember. Even though I thought it was odd, I knew I wasn’t alone, because one I recall overhearing a lady stating how she really enjoyed the sound of paper crinkling, as she was getting her purchases gift wrapped.

    That got me thinking, the sound of paper is similar to the crackle of a woodfire. Perhaps some people have hard wired, evolutionary response: when the campfire is burning, it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep.

    Some studies have pointed to the fact that deep blue colors are relaxing, possibly because the sky becomes deeper blue prior to dusk.

    As far as people with accents or intriguing speech patterns… seems to me like a pre-hypnotic state. I find speakers with Indian accents tend to elicit an ASMR response in me. The “guru” Osho is one such example. I wonder how many people have been dragged into Ashram type cults because they’ve been mesmerized by an ASMR inducing “leader”.

    I’ve read the German people were mesmerized by Hitler’s voice. His vocal chords were damaged by poison gas during WWI. Perhaps he triggered ASMR.

    Another common tendency I’ve noticed myself and mentioned by others who have ASMR is a tendency towards depression, anxiety and racing thoughts. Maybe ASMR is just an escape mechanism wired into our brains to help us unwind.

    I think this is fertile ground for some enterprising PhD candidate looking for a dissertation subject.

  34. KAT says:

    I have experienced this my entire life, with my big triggers being back rubs and having my hair brushed. I can also self-induce and have found this to be especially beneficial since I started experiencing panic attacks a year ago. If I bring on the sensation of an “asmr” during a panic attack, it helps the panic attack subside.

    One aspect of the phenomenon, at least in some cases, including mine, that seems it would be measurable to an extent, is the creation of goosebumps on the skin, since those can be detected by others and are not restricted to subjectivity.

    Also, that brings up something else regarding describing the feeling – while some people call them “brain” tingles, I’ve always thought of them as “skin” tingles (including “scalp” tingles) as the sensation is occurring within the nerves, and possibly the hair follicles, of the skin.

    In fact, I’ve had some friends recently describe the sensation of getting a tattoo (something I have not done, so don’t have personal experience with) as being a “good” or “exquisite” pain that is actually pleasurable in many ways, and this has me wondering if the tattoo needle isn’t triggering an “asmr”-type response within the nerves of the skin tissue.

  35. Lori says:

    I am amazed to learn other people experience this phenomenon! When I was little, my mother who was a nurse and worked shifts, would often clean the house at night, vacuum and change the bed sheets while we were asleep in bed (changing sheets like she would in a hospital with patients still in the bed). I suppose I was aware of the bedsheets being changed and the comforting sound of the humming vacuum. I also loved the sound of the dryer running and being under the hood of a hair dryer. In my grown up years, I suppose I was quite immature – I would wet my hair purposely and sit under the hood of a hairdryer, falling asleep and waking to my head bonking on the dryer hood. I’d love to have an MRI to study my brain. Mind you, the last MRI I had, the sound inside lulled me and gave me the ‘ASMR’ feeling of relaxation and tingly sleepiness. I actually volunteered to the MRI department that if they ever need a subject to test the machines, I would be more than willing – I did not feel claustrophobic – I felt lulled and relaxed! Go figure! I felt like a kid in a candy store when I discovered the vacuum and dryer sounds, whispering and ASMR videos on YouTube. I was fantastically thrilled and fear listening to those videos might become an addiction! :-)

  36. Lauren says:

    WOW! And here I always thought I was crazy! I get the “brain tingles” whenever I hear someone turn the pages of a book/magazine/newspaper. When I was younger, and to some extent today, the sensation would travel down my arms to the extent that I could not even grip a pen or pencil. My mom has the same thing. It’s like my fingers were asleep and are just waking back up. Sometimes keyboard typing will induce this feeling too, as will getting my hair cut or watching someone else get their hair cut. Although I’ve never been high, I always assumed that the “floaty” feeling I got was like being high. It’s like my brain expands and I can’t concentrate on anything but the noise. I am a lawyer and when I’m doing research in the library (or even when I just go to the library for my own reading), I will actively seek the people reading magazines so that I can sit by them. If they only knew…even my husband recognized my “addiction” and made me a cd of him turning the pages of a magazine! I’ve never had anything but pleasure from my brain “issues” and find it incredibly relaxing and almost euphoric. I hope it never goes away!

  37. JBanks says:

    I can get the sensation when I recall an experience where I had been watching people or someone do an activity that required high, concentrated energy (positive energy). I can get the sensation by actually experiencing the stimuli in real time or by recalling the experience. I don’t know what it is but it is very pleasant, almost like a brain massage (if there is such a thing).

  38. Andrew says:

    “ASMR” is just shorthand for this specific sensation; I wouldn’t expect to find it in any actual medical publications because someone on the internet just made it up. The sensation certainly exists. It’s not that big of a deal and only responds to certain triggers, but it’s absolutely unique to any other “pleasure” sensation I feel.

  39. Eric P. Metze says:

    Without getting too deep into this, let me first say that I literally worship Carl Sagan. I’m a skeptic through and through. I loved this article because it wasn’t completely accepting nor dismissive of ASMR. Well, I can assure you that it is a very real experience. I have felt it for thirty years, but I only recently discovered how surprisingly common the experience was. I’m sure the sudden awareness of it is due entirely to the introduction of the Internet. I never would’ve listened to the inane crap I half-listen to these days on YouTube. In fact, the more uninteresting the content is the easier it is to trigger the effect.

    Oh, man. I have so much to say about this topic, and I’m just now realizing it. TO THE BLOG!

  40. Anne says:

    Last night my son happened to mention ASMR and these unusual videos on YouTube. When he explained it to me, I was shocked, as I have had those exactly head tingling sensations from those same triggers since I was young. I just never told anyone. Yes, I guess the Internet is allowing previously personal or hidden things to come out in public. I would never have dreamed there were others that had the same sensations, and especially never dreamed that someone would make videos that are spot-on in causing that reaction. After keeping this to myself for 58 years, it’s been quite surprising to see that there are others with this unusual little (and delightful to experience) quirk.

  41. Lisa says:

    Funny to seethes getting bigger and bigger now! I remember getting “ASMR” since I was about 2 years old (28 now). All the usual things for me again: bedtime stories, other kids playing with my hair in school, then I saw an episode of ‘Joy of Painting’ as a kid and was hooked on Bob Ross videos and some movies (The Secret Garden anyone?) But sometimes is just people talking a certain way, a certain voice or action that triggers it. If I’m tired I can make it happen by thinking about it. I used to watch videos on YouTube, mostly relaxation/meditation/hypnosis but usually I didn’t like the subject and it was too “spiritual” for my taste. Then the whisperers started show, and I loved it. Listened to many of those and it got bigger and bigger. They’ve merged with soft spoken and non/spoken “trigger” videos in the last year or two and the name “ASMR” is used a lot now. I’m not complaining though, it’s great! Also; it is very different to frisson, feels different too. I know I have syneastasia, and sometimes that “overlaps” but this is also very different. Maybe it can all be connected, but I don’t know about that. I was mostly surprised to find out that not everyone has this. Until a few years ago I thought everyone had these sensations!

  42. Lisa says:

    On a side note; I usually don’t feel anything on my skin, for me it feels like its actually happening in my head (ears, brain) and can spread out through the body. I understand people calling them brain orgasms (they feel just as good) but its nothing sexual (for me, an as far as I know most people who feel it too). It does feel very personal, and though it can almost make me catatonic and leaving me without wanting move, talk or do anything it has never “hypnotised” me (I don’t even believe in that) or made me feel like I wasn’t in control. It just makes me feel very comfortable and good.

    • Richard says:

      Ditto for me — both as far as it being inside my head, and not being sexual. Also, like Haillie (comment #50), I have gotten ASMRs from watching someone slowly wash (and especially dry) a car window. As for Bob Ross, for me it is not so much his voice as the sounds he made with the brushes and knife on the canvas and palette, as well as when he cleaned a brush and “beat the devil out of it”.

  43. Tracey says:

    I have ASMR. I’ve had it since a child. Watching youtube vidoes is he only way I can relax, shut my brain down for the day and get my ever so lovely tingles. Best feeling in the world next to an orgasm.

  44. applesauce says:

    HAHA this is awesome, I remember the first time I felt this watching bob ross when i was a little kid. I immediately tried to explain the feeling to my mom who clearly did not understand but just said “oh ya i know what you mean.” since then I have kept it to myself. Its awesome that i finally have a cohesive description for this and to know it is not that un-common, thanks to this blog. cooking, fishing videos wine/whiskey/cigar reviews, bob ross painting (pain in the ass to find)all trigger it for me. I get really spaced out and sink into my chair, my head spine arms and legs all start to tingle. To me it feels like a really light weed buzz.

  45. Jennifer says:

    I have had ASMR since I was a child – I noticed it specifically as a thing while reading a book when I was 5, so I read that book over and over again until I had it memorized. I also started experiencing migraines around the same time, though migraines don’t seem to have any specific triggers, beyond a particular allergen of mine.

    I get more than just the head tingles, though. Mine seem to radiate from two direct spots – the top/back of my head, and my lower spine. I also have a spot underneath my right shoulder blade that, when I experience a certain amount of pressure on it, sends the chills up and down me so fast that I sometimes have a literal orgasm. I’ve been diagnosed as hyper-orgasmic, and I wonder if my extreme sensitivity has to do with ASMR.

    • Khelz says:

      Wow. I have the same spot under my right shoulder blade. When “self-initiating”, that spot is where it usually starts from. Cool. :)

      I find this whole subject simply fascinating. :)

  46. Imko says:

    I have this ASMR feeling too. Also, I would say it might be similar to an addiction and I does not apply to, lets say, the same video on youtube forever. After a while, a video is no longer able to trigger it and I have to look for new ones.
    Is there any research about it? I would offer me as participant for.

  47. Abu the Gump says:

    Adding to the mystery of ASMR, it seems to be a form of synesthesia. Visual and or auditory stimulation seem to trigger the somesthetic “back of the head tingles”. Also, in addition to the pleasure component, why the back of the head and not any other part? Are the cues in visual and or auditory stimulation some sort of cross-modal equivalent to specifically localized somatotopic stimulation? It may be worth looking into not just because it’s a “weird phenomena” (which I myself experience) but also because it might be a window into multimodal sensory transformations. TMS and fMRI would definitely by interesting.

  48. Chris says:

    I’ve had this as far as I can remember. I’ve found I can trigger it with certain climatic build up in music or the thought of a strong emotional dependancy put on me. The strongest sensation though is when I breathe deep and feel myself “disconnecting ” with what’s going on around me. A slow deep breath and a slow exhale. The tingles run down my back and stay right above my wrists. I’ve found this feeling though the more I do it. The more eerie it begins to feel. Also depending on how I sit stand or lay is how the feeling will rush. Mine will accompany sometimes watery eyes. Not tears because I don’t have a runny nose or red cheeks. I’ve thought and all I can come up with is a sensory overload. The feeling is addictive.

    • Andovarius says:

      That is not ASMR, my friend. Sweeping musical crescendos and stirring inspirational speeches create the “shivers,” which are different from the gentlly-inspired ASMR sensations discussed here.

  49. Brendt says:

    I have been experiencing ASMR for as long as I remember. However, I first recall it as a child, seeing a still picture of a child brushing a horse. I was into guns and robots, so this picture shouldn’t have even caught my attention, only it did and the feeling hit me like a bus. Not just tingling, but like my sentient mind was expanding out of the back of my head, and being given room to stretch and enjoy some free, calm space. The feeling came and went throughout my life until I worked at a bookstore, where I found a massage book. Wanted to learn it for a girlfriend. Well, it seemed to work better on me than her.
    Youtube is chalk full of catalysts for this, and now I can even easily tell what will and won’t set it off within the first seconds of seeing or hearing something.
    Oh, and Bob Ross for sure. My dad knew this too. When he wanted peace and quiet, he threw it on and walked out of the room. 5 minutes later, nothing but tranquility.
    Something to note that goes with what Steven said in the article is that my twin brother experiences the same thing. In that way, it may be something inherited. That or it’s a fluke that both of us experience it.

    • Keith says:

      Finally put a name to the sensation a few hours ago. Discussed with the family for the first time. All of my 3 brothers and mother experience ASMR, while the ‘obviously’ non blood related girlfriend of one of the brothers doesn’t. Interesting if one was pre-disposed genetically. I wonder how common it is? Just because there is suddenly hundreds of thousands of people talking about it on the internet doesn’t mean it isn’t a 1 in 50 people thing at the general population level.

      Whispering and haircuts seem to be very common triggers. One of my big triggers though is a window cleaners rubber blade squeeking on a window.

      Without knowing the name but recognising the description of the experience from someone defending Reiki because of the senstations she felt as proof that the Reiki lady was manipulating her lifeforce, I countered that my window cleaner was obviously messing with my lifeforce against my will 8-) ie. a already had surmised that what I was experiencing was just a quirk of my nervous system and that she obviously had the same quirk and it was only our triggers that differed. The Reiki lady was certainly not a Jedi using the force on her 8-)

      As soon as I remembered that story I also came to the same conclusion as many posters above, ie. How many people into woo or religion believe as seriously as they do due to an experience that they attribute to the holy spirit or their guru or whatever but which is actually just ASMR!!

      In the last few hours I have also read some people talk about the drug extacy when trying to describe the sensation. As someone who has taken that drug a few times back in the nineties , I knew what they were talking about. The ASMR is like a mild version of the tingling waves of sensation on the scalp, back and arms when coming up on MDMA. SO theres a chemical trigger for the nervous system response thats triggered in ASMR.

      We need Vilayanur S. Ramachandran on the case!! 8-)

  50. Haillie says:

    Thanks for this! I have had these sensations all my life but never really noticed they were abnormal until I got a job at a gas station and would get the tingly feeling when watching people wash their windows (that’s probably one you haven’t heard yet!). I just assumed everyone got it and the only reason I found a name to it was because I was attracted to those kinds of videos on youtube and noticed people talking about it in comments. Only problem was all the definitions online made it sound very much like new age hippy crap which I don’t buy into. So having someone with a skeptical position but still thinking there is something to it makes me feel better.

  51. Mona says:

    I keep hearing about the tingly feeling which I don’t get. When I was a child in school, certain teachers had the ability to lull me into a trance when lecturing and/or writing on the chalkboard. As an adult, I watch old re-runs of a TV show by a famous bishop who has the same effect. He also does a lot of chalkboard writing. I ran across the whisper voices in searching for sleep hypnosis which ultimately led me to the ASMR videos. Some of those reminded me of the trance like state I used to get from some teachers and lectures. When I ran across the Russian teacher with her blackboard and whispering, there I was, in a trance again. I fell asleep before the video was over. I’ve found others that will put me in that trance like state, which are mostly crinkling of hard plastic bags such as potpouri bags. The slow, methodical technique in any of these videos is key. By the way, Bob Ross with his talking while painting is very soothing and relaxing. I also remember as a child, An artist named John Naggy or Gnaggy? had a show called learn to draw and his lessons were soothing and also helped me learn to draw!

  52. Jeremy says:

    I just wanted to say thanks, Mr. Novella for writing about this subject. I’m not in the habit of posting on forums–I even consider the pressure to engage in online social networking something of a bother. But I had to respond to this, as I had no idea this was a known phenomenon until just now. I used to experience it often when I was younger, and, on an odd whim actually went looking for something to trigger the response on youtube. I found some relaxation technique recordings, but knew right away that those wouldn’t do it. The voice wasn’t the problem, naturally, but something in the intonation, or maybe even in my own awareness, of being given commands made me realize it wasn’t going to work. But knowing that I really enjoy certain tutorials and thinking back on the kind of interested but calm and disconnected babbling about a favorite subject of the speaker that could trigger the experience, I googled “relaxing voice tutorial” and found a video of a woman whispering how to fold towels and was almost too surprised that such a convenient search result had surfaced to give in to the tingling sensation. And here I was typing these things in feeling like a weirdo (well, MORE of a weirdo, anyway). Who knew?

  53. markx says:

    I’m surprised no-one has made the obvious link to religion.

    This probably to some extent explains the power of early priests and preachers….

    Though the current crop are probably mostly surviving on traditions and historical status.

  54. Marie says:

    I am awake at 2:00 in the morning. I searched only “ASMR” to look for a different video presenter to help me to relax, and found this blog entry. I, too, was unsure what I would find since it is called Skepticblog, and was pleasantly surprised (only due to the name) to find acceptance from someone who does not experience this sensation…

    I don’t know if anyone I know experiences this, since I haven’t talked about it much. I never felt that it was wrong to talk about it, just that nobody understood what I was saying. I do know that my mother and brother do *not* experience it, nor do my two children, if we are looking at passing on a gene. I happened across one post a few months ago on a message board that I frequent that gave me the name to search. It didn’t seem anyone else on that message board was interested, and so I felt even more like I was unusual… Until I found the videos. The sheer numbers of people producing and watching the videos was amazing to me, having never met anyone else who experiences this…

    I have experienced this since I was a young child, and had enough of them that I called it “my prickly warm fuzzies…” The first time I can *remember* experiencing this, I was watching the children’s librarian shelving books. It seems to happen to me when I am absorbed by watching someone do something that they are absorbed in doing. And, I always loved Bob Ross… It makes me wonder if my grandmother experienced this watching him, because I only ever saw him on TV at her house. Unfortunately it was not something I could explain well enough, so I never asked her before she died. It is possible, too, that we did not get the necessary channel at our house in a different part of the country… :0)

    I have only recently found that certain sounds can trigger it every time as well, due to the videos. It is interesting to see what does and does not trigger it for me, and yet triggers it for others. I often wonder if there is a study that I could participate in, but I wouldn’t know what specialty of doctor/researcher would be looking at this even if they are, or what *they* are calling it…

  55. EB says:

    I just found out what this is today, and was astonished. I have experienced this exact thing as far back as grade school – the pleasure, relaxation, and tingling in the scalp and upper spine when watching people perform calm, precise tasks. I had no idea it wasn’t just me! This is definitely a real, and very enjoyable, sensation.

  56. Giles says:

    As a recovering alcoholic (thankfully clean for six months) who has come down from acute withdrawal one too many times, maybe this might shed some light on it – I find the “sensation” to be much stronger and more widespread (including in the hands and feet if they are touched) during approximately 24-72 hours since last drink. It occurs around the same time as the paresthesia kicks in. Even without “ASMR” (or whatever they want to call it) stimuli, it can occur, especially when something lightly touches one of the areas I experience it, particularly head, face, feed, backs of knees, and forearms. It comes in brief waves, before reverting to the general hell of a broken GABA system.

    This might lend some weight to your suggestion that they might be minor seizures.

    I once tried to describe it to a doctor, but it’s very difficult to describe. All I can say is that it alternates with paresthesia.

    • Tracy says:

      You’re onto something. I discovered there were others like me through a google search today. I quit drinking two days ago, the anxiety is finally clearing, but I find myself more susceptible to ASMR episodes (I knew there was a reason to quit drinking).

  57. Unknown says:

    I don’t know if you’re still reading comments here, but I think ASMR is a miscommunication. I’m thankful there finally became a term for it because I’ve been searching for what the feeling was for years, but except for the communication aspect of it I don’t think the phenomenon actually warrants a name. I suspect everyone has the ability to experience it, but those that don’t either don’t know how or maybe never noticed that they felt anything significant worth trying to reproduce. It would be great if somebody did do some testing. I would also be interested in the personalities of the people that do/don’t experience ASMR. I am currently wondering if those that do are more introverted/introspective, generally quiet, have a greater need for recovery from social activities, or anything else along those lines. It is definitely, indisputably, a real thing that happens though. I watch those goof-ball videos most nights to help me relax before bed.

  58. ael says:

    I’ve gotten this sensation my entire life (various triggers from light touch to daydreaming), and quite frankly thought everyone did until recently I tried telling a friend on the phone how I was just finishing experiencing that feeling “you know that you get in your head when you are relaxed that feels so good….?”

    She had no idea what I was talking about.

    I was surprised and began my google search which lead me here – I’m glad to have a name for it – even if it isn’t the scientific name at this point. And I will now check out these videos and see if they illicit this response, usually I lightly touch the inside of wrist or palm.

  59. TooManyJens says:

    Like ael, I had no idea this didn’t happen to everyone! I don’t have this response as much anymore, but it still happens sometimes. I thought about watching the videos to see if they triggered the response, but I didn’t know if I would somehow trigger it in myself just because I expected it.

  60. Kyle says:

    It would be nice to see some real research done into this. I understand that while uncommon, there are enough of us that can trigger the response at will without external stimuli that some basic studying could be done.

  61. Ben says:

    I’d say I have a mild case of it. I’ve always noticed that whispering and the sound of voices has a stronger than normal effect on me, and I’ll sometimes get a tingling feeling, but I would certainly never say anything near an “orgasm” or even mildly disorienting.

  62. Tommy says:

    ASMR is absolutely real. I have felt it my entire life. For me it is usually triggered by certain people’s soft speech or by watching someone do a diligent task with their hands. I never questioned it, just assuming everyone felt like that. Then I tried to explain it to someone and found out that isn’t the case. I feel good about knowing others get this too and there are now words for me to describe it. I believe it ties in with childhood subconscious emotions somehow. I do not believe you can “learn” ASMR. And if you think you may have felt it, you haven’t cause trust me, you would know. It feels amazing. Like a drug. I don’t like the term “brain orgasm” because ASMR is not a sexual feeling. It’s more like the comfort you got as a baby when your mother held you and told you a story or sung to you. Those sorts of feelings. As to your questions about whether seizures are involved, I’d say it’s totally possible. I get migraines and I have confidence issues, social anxiety, and manic depression. I think those could possibly play some factor in it as well.

    • Natalia says:

      Thank you for the article and for all the comments. I read about ASMR yesterday for the first time and I found it fascinating. Today I spent the day doing some research and I found this site.

      I’ve had that wonderful feeling all my life by watching people using their hands for a very wide range of activities: massages, origami, drawing, doing their or other people’s hair or even just using a rubber to delete a pencil mark, to mention a few examples. I find it extremely relaxing. I never asked myself about the nature of this sensation, as I just thought it was one more of the many sensations someone can experience. I just have it. It is a part of me and I love it. I always thought it was great to get so much pleasure from such simple things. I never perceived it as something dangerous, so I just enjoyed it.

      But it’s true: it is not easy to explain to others and obviously not everybody has it. In fact, I only know two people (apart from myself) who experience ASMR. We three are the same type of personality. Nervous and anxious (sometimes too much), worrying too much. Like Tommy, I have migraines and tend to be too pessimist. I can be lots of fun too, but my “dark side” is there and I have to watch it.

      I would love to ask anyone who experiences ASMR about their personality. Is this something common in complex personalities o quiet people experience it too? I would find some research in this direction very interesting. And what could be the connection between the triggers and the sensations? I wish I had the knowledge to figure out a theory. But I don’t…

  63. cc says:

    Glad to see Dr. Novella writing on this subject, been a huge SGU fan for a few years now. I’ve experienced this effect for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only just today discovered the term ASMR and stumbled on this article.

    I feel fortunate that I experience this phenomenon to such a degree that when it triggers right, every single hair from the back of my neck to my shoulders and down my back stand on end. I’ve heard that some insist this sensation is called “frisson” and not “ASMR”.. I make no claim to knowing which of these terms is correct (if either), and though I don’t necessarily agree that they are distinctly different effects, I will say that the feeling I get when hearing, say, a soaring violin solo hit the high note is quite a bit different from the calming relaxation I feel from whispering or paper crackling.

    Setting does seem to be important, though. In the interests of science I’ll risk sounding sexist by saying the effect seems to be much greater watching a video of a pretty girl making sounds directly into a camera than when I ball up a piece of paper and toss it into the wastebasket myself.

  64. Erdem says:

    The video of “people getting eye exams” is triggering ASMR mainly because of the white noise in the background. The two people could talk about anything and it would still work. I feel ASMR since my childhood. It’s definetly real! To me…

  65. Lisa says:

    Many people seem to confuse it with frisson, which is completely different, but sounds a lot like it. Frisson is te feeling you get from music, books, movies, big sports events, group activities etc, where there is a lot of build up and it moves you or gets you really excited (lots of positive emotions overflowing). ASMR isn’t like that, it gives you tingles on your head (or “brain”) neck, spine but can even go to your limbs or (for me personally) ears :)
    It’s relaxation 2.0

  66. elevenone says:

    I’ve never felt ASMR or anything similar as far as I can recall, but I’m still fascinated by it. I agree that neuropsychology ought to take a good look at the phenomenon!

  67. Cillen Hénvenn says:

    I first experienced ASMR when I was a little kid, particularly in a few instances where I would be standing over a friend’s shoulder watching him or her draw or write something. I never knew what it was and thought I was quite strange for getting such bizarre sensations. Then in college, I came across ASMR videos while watching some whisper relaxation videos on YouTube. Suddenly the sensation was back! It comes and goes; particular triggers only work at certain times. But I love it all the same.

  68. JOe says:

    After years of wondering whether I was the only person on earth who experienced this, it’s great to finally stumble onto this label of ASMR. I just found it today (I guess my internet searching in previous years was not up to snuff?).

    For me, it’s triggered by whispered female voices, usually it’s accompanied by a certain playful attitude. Bob Ross has also worked. I think the very first episode I remember was when I was very very young on the school bus, and an older girl ran her fingernail along the top of my hair.

    Anyway, it’s a very real thing. I would love to 1. be able to induce it/control it, because it’s really quite nice, and 2. know what’s happening in my brain.

  69. Jess says:

    I’ve been experiencing ASMR for as long as I can remember. I only found out today that:
    a) I wasn’t the only one,
    b)It doesn’t happen to everyone

  70. Jess says:

    I’ve been experiencing ASMR for as long as I can remember. I only discovered today that:
    a) I wasn’t the only one,
    b) it doesn’t happen to everyone
    c) it can be manually triggered.

    Looking back on my childhood, a lot of my preferences/quirks make a lot more sense. Along with the common triggers mentioned above, (certain speech patters, instructional videos, watching people complete tasks), the most intense trigger for me was reading descriptive writing.

    I have always read voraciously, especially as a child. I don’t know if this trigger is specific to people who read a lot, or just me. Oddly, around the age of 10, I would read dozens of wine descriptions. This activity consistently triggered intense ASMR, usually lasting for as long as I kept reading. Once I stopped reading, I usually felt quite dazed and disoriented for a while.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience?

  71. Marcus says:

    I have ASMR but only when I hear soft speaking but I wanted to point out some other times I feel the exact same feeling but extremely briefly.

    Immediately after sneezing

    When you have to pee really bad and finally make it to the bathroom immediately after you finish

    When you have an itch for a long time and you finally reach it immediately after you scratch

    When you hear someone sing and they hit notes you didn’t expect immediately as they hit the note

  72. Ayah says:

    I definitely have ASMR, and I really wish there was more research on it because I want to know what it says about my biology; in either a positive or negative way. It could mean nothing, but it really is an intense feeling and I hope it’s not unhealthy (though it feels AMAZING).
    There is not a more scientific term, unforch–, even the acronym ASMR is no more than a couple of years old, at most. Luckily the internet brought all of us ASMR weirdos together with whisper videos and the like. Here’s to more knowledge in the future!


  73. Chris says:

    I have had ASMR experiences my whole life, since as long as I can remember. BUT!!! and I haven’t read everyone’s experiences, but I would not that it was triggered by the things that most people here associate with it. I have always associated it with BEING TAUGHT something, learning something new from someone else, and often a soothing voice. I didn’t know that it could be triggered by something mechanical like crinkling a bag or running a brush through hair. To me it was always more of a connection between two people, even if the other person wasn’t focusing their attention on me alone. Anyways, I should research/experiment with it some more but that is my experience so far.

    • Chris says:

      I also want to add that the MOST INTENSE ASMR that I get is when I am being SOLD something. I love listening to sales pitches when I have the time. Doesn’t matter what it is. I almost became religious b/c the feeling was so intense during a Jehovah’s Witness encounter that I thought it was GOD !!! Is this something else entrirely?

      • Richard says:

        I have gotten ASMR while listening to a sales pitch, but not any sales pitch. Only from certain salesmen who speak in that certain way that triggers ASMRs. I don’t know; maybe some of them are trained to speak that way, to hypnotize their prospective customers into buying. But I never buy just because of that. As for the JWs, it might have been an ASMR that you got, but believe me, it wasn’t God!

  74. Jamie Kelly says:

    ASMR (or whatever name is assigned to it) is a real experience. At its most potent, it can render my arms almost limp. The tingle starts in my head and usually runs down my back and “exits” in my right hip. I first experienced it listening to my mother get ready for the day while I laid in bed early in the morning. The sounds of the hairbrush clicking against the porcelain, or a drawer opening, or the brief whoosh of hairspray would leave me nearly incapacitated in sheer bliss. I would watch friends draw or whittle and feel the same thing. Soft chalk on a chalkboard is like crack cocaine. I don’t get “tired.” I get dazed and feel like every cell of my body is entirely vulnerable. … How’s that for strange?

  75. Lola says:

    I’ve also always experienced this sensation and was surprised to discover that friends I asked about it didn’t know what I was talking about. Now I’m surprised to learn that many people do experience it, and that the stimuli that trigger it are the same for me as for others. I even feel that weird thing in my right shoulder blade that someone mentioned in these comments. In fact I’ve noticed that when I listen to a talk show to help me sleep and put the earbud in just one ear so I can comfortably lay my head on the pillow, I almost can’t bear it if I put it in my right ear, the feeling is too intense and reaches under my right shoulder blade in an excruciating way. Is this weird? Yes. Yes, it is.

  76. Laura says:

    I have had this since I was a child. I remember a girl sitting beside me in class whispering in my ear. I got tingles and shivers. For years, I looked back on these experiences wondering if they were my first encounters with erotic feelings. I realised though, it was more a deep sense of relaxation, and while maybe just as pleasurable, it was a different type of pleasure – more like receiving a massage! In university I always got the feeling when in the library and listening to pages turning and the rummaging of pencil cases. I really didnt realise this happened to anyone else, until I told my friend about it one day. He kept making fun of me, so I decided to look up youtube to see if there were any videos of pages turning to show him how relaxing it is.. it turns out, I’m not the only one :)

  77. kaidog says:

    I am a PhD anthropologist and a skeptic about most Internet ‘science’ – but the ASMR thing is no joke. I have this particular response and I’ve wondered for years why it is that certain voices, particularly softly accented Russian or French, give me a very pleasant shivery tingly feeling. Braingasm isn’t the right word – it’s more like having someone gently run their fingernails over the back of your neck, or give you a head massage. It’s really quite nice to know that there are others like me.

    By the way, I also have synaesthesia (music brings colorful abstract patterns) and I’ve wondered if the two are related? I.e., my terribly miswired brain.

  78. rivka says:

    I KNOW they are nothing like seizures. I suffer from epilepsy. ASMR is not frightening. Seizures are. So don’t EVER say that something nice can be ‘like a seizure’. I know that you’re a neurologist, but that doesn’t mean that you know how a seizure feels.

  79. John says:

    For anyone still trying to figure out what ASMR is, this should clear it up. When you hear nails on a chalkboard, the feeling you get that causes shivers down your back is ASMR, but it’s so intense that it’s unpleasant.

    For many of us that very same sensation in a much milder form can be achieved through various other “triggers.” When it’s soft and mild, it’s very pleasant.

    • Keith says:

      Was just thinking the same thing. I watched one ASMR video where the young lady rubbed a cotton makeup wipe on the camera lens. I experienced pleasurable/relaxing ASMR from the sound while at the same time imediately recognising that the sound was not unlike the sound of my dog tearing the ‘fur’ off a tennis ball with his teeth which sends me into cringing skin crawling spasms of discomfort. ie. I realised its probably the same thing but there is a threshold below which a sound triggers ASMR and above the threshold I become hypersensitive and its a nasty sensation instead of nice.

      Interestingly I seem to match the personality type descriptions mentioned in a lot of other posts.

      Also interestingly, lots of people are describing triggers being watching other people performing intricate tasks or lecture scenarios. I seem to recall the neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran possibly having something to say on this. Aha, just remembered. Mirror Neurons!!! Could these be involved in ASMR?

      • Keith says:

        He talks about mirror neurons and empathy is mentioned a lot. I am very empathetic and sensitive to other peoples emotional and physical pain. Empathy is a word I am reading a lot in assosciation with ASMR both in the posts here and other discussions on ASMR elsewhere on the web. I think there is something very fundamental to the nervous system being talked about here. One wonders if it is a normal but hypersensitive nervous system we are dealing with or a nervous system with a fault or quirk?

  80. Anna says:

    I can’t remember a time when I didn’t experience this…certain types of music (especially with deep, resonating male voices), Bob Ross episodes, the sound of a typewriter, canvas being written on, getting a haircut…all of these things and more can bring on feelings of ASMR. I didn’t realize til I read this article that not everyone has this.

    I also get “feelings” from touching/being touched by most living things too. I call it “Taste-Feel” because it literally feels like the sensation of tasting, but in relation to…I don’t know. Energy, maybe? It’s very different than ASMR.

    My ASMR experiences are always pleasurable and nice, but sometimes I’ll be touched by a person getting my attention and it feels/tastes slimey or coarse.
    Strangely, it is always a nice experience with plants/trees and 98% of the time with animals…it also has to be body to body contact. I can’t feel anything through clothes.

    Does anyone else have this?

  81. Stephanie says:

    So, if you’re a neurologist, I think you should attempt to see if you can help initiate some research. I too have wondered if my ASMR is some weird seizure or even something indicative of another issue. We need a research grant for this. By the way, I’m curios, who was the one who coined the name “autonomous sensory meridian response”? It seems like it spontaneously formed out of thin air and just became the accepted term.

  82. Voz says:

    Is it real? Most definitely. I have experienced this since I was a kid and it is as real as any other sensation you have ever felt. I once tried to explain it to someone and asked if he ever got it. He started saying something about human imperfections and who knows what sort of things god will have to fix in mankind…blah, blah, blah. He clearly had no clue what I was talking about. It is NOT sexual, it is a feeling of supreme calm and safety. It is the GREATEST feeling and state of mind. I would say it is better than sex, but it is also completely different from it. FWIW I am an atheist and a skeptic of anything religious or new age-y. This is definitely a REAL phenomenon.

  83. klee says:

    Kind of amazed that, in all these comments, no one has mentioned ‘listening to someone eat’ as a trigger. That’s what does it for me, as far back as I can remember. When I hear someone crunching crisps or biting into a pear, I find myself (inadvertently) staying as quiet as possible, wishing it wouldn’t end. Last year, following many futile Google searches, I finally found out it’s called ASMR and that I’m not the only one who has it. I ‘came out’ to my coworkers, who now indulge me by munching on kettle chips. ;->

    For me, it’s not just with humans, either– I love listening to my dog crunching kibble, and I find it incredibly soothing to listen to my friend’s cat eat wet or dry food.

  84. Peepee says:

    Hi Sceptic your post is very very interesting. Hhumb up. I agree Genessis in latin is realy too much :-D :-D :-D

  85. Niall says:

    I have noticed something about your articles…it is one thing to be healthily skeptical, but you take it to disturbing extremes. Your research is for the most part lacklustre, and in some cases non existant; at best bias, and you presume an intelligence not shared by normal people? It’s like reading the works of a disgruntled child.

  86. Triple P says:

    It’s worth noting that some people can trigger their own ASMR without sound or visuals – just by willing it. I’m one of those people. It’s not as strong as when it’s triggered by external stimuli, but it’s very real.

    That makes me wonder if sounds and visuals that provoke ASMR are actually facilitating certain brain waves/neural oscillations for which the tingly sensation is simply a byproduct. I have noticed a suppression of my ASMR with alcohol in my system.

  87. Mathew says:

    I have the most intense ASMR vibes while listening to music, certain points at certain songs can trigger it 100% of the time (intensity is never consistent) Some one really needs to get funding to research this, i would love to actually know whats happening in my body when its triggered.

  88. Leo says:

    I have experienced this ever since I was a child. What always has triggered it is when someone close by is calmly and concentrated looking at a book. Interestingly this doesn’t happen if someone is just reading but there must be an element of investigation, a kind of alertness, which is why it happens often when people are looking at pictures in a book or magazine. And often I will notice the tingling sensation first and only when looking around notice what caused it, e.g. on the train to work.

    Bob Ross does it for me too, it’s the combination of his voice, his calmness and I think, the love for what he is doing. As a child it was watching a certain lady crocheting. Watching some artisans, getting a nice neck and shoulder massage…

    I like the Meridian bit in the name because the feeling happens along two ‘lines’ up the back of my head which are part of a Meridian in Chinese medicine. Also after several months of practicing Qi Gong I found that one of the exercises triggers this feeling too.

    Actually, I even know someone who experiences this too. When we talked about it (and our synaesthesia) and everybody else thought this weird I realized that this might not be so common as I had assumed.

  89. Leo says:

    In the meantime I have been listing to a number of these sound-ASMR-triggering videos and found that there are some sounds which do it for me (tapping on book covers, turning magazine, crinkling plastic bags) while others don’t (whispering, glass on glass).

    On a more general note I think that many of these sounds resemble either the sound of fire or the sound of water/rain, which might have something to do with people finding them so soothing.

    Also, a common characteristic seems to be randomness. Not a total arbitrariness, but a randomness within the range of sounds that is possible to produce with a certain kind of material.

  90. David says:

    I grew up in a united Pentecostal church, and even now as an atheist, I get this feeling every time I’m in attendance at a UPC service during the singing. It’s quite common these days for UPC churches to utilized what one pastor termed ‘7-11 songs’ in which 7 lines are repeatedly sung over and over in a contemporary gospel worship style. It becomes increasingly an outwardly emotional and inwardly trance-like. Sometimes when I find myself in the middle of my house in darkness at night and think I hear something it will happen, starting at my scalp down to my feet. I’ve since learned as an atheist that there’s no such thing as demonic presence. Even though I served in Iraq, when I get this crippling amazing feeling, despite controlling fears, the feeling won’t dissipate until the triggering thoughts of spiritual presence is washed away by focusing on something else entirely.

  91. Graeme says:

    This was a revelation to me – a sensation I first experienced as a child in the 1950s, but never spoke about.

  92. Angela P. says:

    It’s both amusing and interesting how so many people mention Bob Ross! Before I ever heard of the term I found myself searching for him on youtube just so I could feel this wonderful sensation. For me, there are several triggers but especially certain voices, speaking in a certain manner (soft, almost monotone, rather whispery), and having someone play with or brush my hair. Better yet, if I get exposed to both triggers simultaneously! Heaven! Also, I sometimes experience intense ASMR when someone is around me and they are trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb me. Can’t figure that one out.

    I feel it both inside and outside of my skull. There are the pleasant, tingly surface sensations. But what goes on on the inside is hard to explain … in one sense it reminds me of the pleasant way I used to feel years ago after taking certain prescription antihistamines … but there’s more to it than that. In the past year I’ve had some spontaneous ASMR. I’ve also entered “remission” from major depression; some have speculated a serotonin connection so I can’t help but wonder. I look forward to hearing about some serious research on this.

  93. Desdemona says:

    I used to assume everybody got the head tingles. I also assumed everybody could orgasm just by thinking erotic thoughts. I later discovered most people don’t experience either phenomenon. I wonder if they are in any way related – maybe some sort of heightened mind-body connection?

  94. LifeJunkie says:

    “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 get tingles just imagining it :). That’s me, completely. I don’t really get real ASMR from anything else. Maybe just feel really relaxed. I’ve made comments about this many times on ASMR video’s. I would get it as a child when someone would look through a bag or read something in a really focused way while being in the middle of group. Like on birthdays, when someone would do something like that. Major ASMR. The annoying part is that because they’re in the middle of a group, something might catch their attention, ending the activity way to soon.

  95. Alyssa E says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I, also, have been trying to find scientific data associated with ASMR. I first heard of ASMR through a YouTube channel that I watched. It wasn’t ASMR based, but she was explaining her experiences through ASMR channels. Once I knew the title ASMR I could relate it to experiences in life before the given name was known. My “tingles” are tiggered at certain times. I have not found a pattern like others have described it. For example one girl says she always gets a reaction from the word eight. I can not relate to this. If one person says purple I might feel something, but if someone else says purple I might feel nothing. Also sometimes I can watch a whole video feel nothing but get to a point of being relaxed which then I can tigher myself. I have felt these feelings before usually the strongest from a close, intimate relationship. For example a boyfriend whispering in my ear and telling me something. Or from a close friend showing me something very detailed. The library would also trigger me because of the quiet atmosphere. I think you are on the right track with your hypothesis. I think we have learned and conditioned out brains. We experienced something we like which caused a internal stimuli. Now this internal stimuli is conditioned. When we have a similar experience our brain acts upon it. In some ways I believe it is called a brain orgasma because the external stimuli effects the interal stimuli associated with pleasure. The act of someone only talking to you or only paying attention with you. I think it can be addictive because anything pleasurable, especially to someone with an addictive personality enjoys feeling the euphoria. I think most human enjoy having their ego pumped. I would love for someone to use scientific tools MRI , maybe even EKG to see if the external stimuli does cause some internal reaction in a select few.

  96. Joan Sierra says:

    Just listened to a story on NPR about ASMR and recognized the sensation described as one I experience regularly. I spent the last hour googling it and reading about others’ experiences. I knew it was unusual, as no one I’ve mentioned it to had any idea what I was talking about. It’s nice to know it’s not just me.

    I usually experience it spontaneously when exposed to soft repetitive sounds or touch. In a relaxed state I can induce it by concentrating. I discovered in recent years that meditation brings it on almost every time, sometimes just briefly, but sometimes for long extended periods.

    It’s always pleasurable and usually relaxing, but occasionally when it’s long lasting it can be a bit scary, especially since I didn’t know what it was. Now I can relax more around it.

  97. Ben says:

    I feel sorry for anyone who would be skeptical of asmr, because they evidently do not experience it and are missing out. It is wonderfully relaxing. I never knew it was a “thing” until I heard about it on this American life. I always thought the reason muted sounds of a vacuum cleaner were so relaxing was because it reminded me of taking naps as a child while my mom cleaned the house.

  98. Margot says:

    This was something I assumed everyone had, so it surprised me that everyone didn’t get the tickle-feeling in the back of their neck when Bob Ross talked. It’s a wonderfully relaxing sensation. As a religious person, though, I don’t really see the “spiritual” side to it. It feels very concrete and physical – a tingling at the base of my skull and my neck.

  99. William Ebertz says:

    As a former evangelical Christian and lifelong ASMR experiencer, I know for a fact that what I would have described as being “filled with the spirit”, is actually an ASMR experience. It was when I discovered that the feeling I got from religious experience was exactly the same set of experiences I could enjoy with a good hypnosis/ASMR video; that I began questioning the truth of my beliefs in the first place. ASMR isn’t understood at all yet, and I think research on the phenomenon will go a long way in explaining the religious disposition that many people seem to have. It is also an excellent way for a reluctant nonbeliever to have the same numinous experience they get from church, without the accompanying self repression and dogmatism.

  100. Brad says:

    AMSR may not be real but what I experience is. The first time I felt it was in second grade watching a girl cleaning a photo. I knew for years that certain sounds fired off a very intensely pleasurable sensation behind my ears. I had posted stuff on medical sites and other places with no luck. I had never found anyone who had a similar experience until YouTube. It was really cool to find out other people had experienced the same thing I had.
    I must say when I read people questioning whether it is “real” it is more than a little annoying. It is most definitely real to me and has been for several decades.

  101. Irjowo99 says:

    Found asmr in the last few months, pretty sure I have the same experience. The videos fascinate me, I will say, and definitely have gone through the “this is awesome” into the “now I’ve got to order a case” phases.

    Personally fascinating is what kinds of videos “turn me on.” I find many of them irritating because of something about tone of voice or what I interpret to be immaturity of the people (young women generally) doing the videos. For me there is an erotic element to the ones I like, also, but it’s very far from looking at porn or something. More makes me smile and get the tingles than arouses.