If you’ve ever got lost down an Internet rabbit hole, there's a chance you've come across Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) viral videos designed to give viewers a fuzzy “head orgasm”, typically using techniques like whispering softly, sucking ice cubes, or gently licking microphones.
Yup, humans are weird.
For the first time, scientists have looked at the psychological underpinnings of these “brain tingles” and, it turns out, they are actually pretty good for you. Along with decreasing levels of stress and sadness, ASMR was even shown to decrease people’s heart rates.
Most people describe ASMR as a pleasant tingling feeling that starts at the crown of the head and runs down the neck. The sensation can be sparked simply by watching certain stimuli. Strangely enough, though, only some people appear to experience ASMR. Check out the videos below to see if you are among the "lucky" few.
"Lots of people report experiencing ASMR since childhood and awareness of the sensation has risen dramatically over the past decade due to Internet sites such as YouTube and Reddit,” Dr Giulia Poerio, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Psychology, said in a statement.
"However, ASMR has gone virtually unnoticed in scientific research which is why we wanted to examine whether watching ASMR videos reliably produces feelings of relaxation and accompanying changes in the body – such as decreased heart rate."
As reported in the journal PLOS ONE, the University of Sheffield in the UK recently asked a group of participants to watch two different ASMR videos and one non-ASMR video in a lab setting, half of whom said they had previously experienced ASMR.
The results showed that those who experienced ASMR had significantly reduced heart rates (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared with those who didn't experience it when watching ASMR videos. A second part of the study found the ASMR group also showed an increase in positive emotions, including relaxation and feelings of social connection, not dissimilar from other stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness.
"Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers – but only in people who experience the feeling,” added Dr Poerio.
“This was reflected in ASMR participants' self-reported feelings and objective reductions in their heart rates compared to non-ASMR participants. What's interesting is that the average reductions in heart rate experienced by our ASMR participants was comparable to other research findings on the physiological effects of stress-reduction techniques such as music and mindfulness."