Autonomous Sensory Meridian Responses (ASMR) are tingly feelings often elicited by certain experiences and sounds, such as stroking, chiming or rustling. A study into the phenomenon in 2015 showed that the most common ASMR stimulus was whispering, closely followed touch (especially on the face), sharp clear sounds, and then repetitive motions.
Videos showcasing these kinds of noises receive hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, however not everyone can experience these pleasurable sensations and they are often felt in different ways. Recent findings, as part of a small study in Canada, suggest that those with ASMR may have more cross-communication between the networks in their brains, but the mechanism is still very much a mystery as the stimuli and physical reactions vary so much. Preliminary results from a second study into the response in Virginia show that 95% of respondents experienced their ASMR sensation in the head or brain, and 71% felt the sensation in their spinal cord. Only 35% described the feeling as ‘euphoric’, but 60% labelled it as ‘relaxing’.
The benefits of ASMR have been claimed include stress relief and inducing better quality sleep, but the evidence so far has been limited to findings of lower heart rates. Students applying to Medicine may like to examine the physiological side of ASMR, whether it does actually have any positive effect on the body, and if there could be any detrimental effects of patients with serious depression attempting to use it to treat themselves. For those applying for Psychology, the state of blissful relaxation and the other mental impacts of ASMR could be of interest.