VI: Tingly Brain Has a Name

If you or a loved one has ever been affected by that weird tingly brain feeling, you are not alone. Call the attorneys at Goldwater, Goldwater, Goldwater, and Plutz right now. You may entitled to financial compensation.

Just kidding. You don’t get any money. But you do get cool facts! That’s like money you can’t use to buy stuff!

Do you ever hear a sound, like people whispering or a crinkling plastic or feel something like a massage or getting your hair braided and get a weird tingly sensation in your head? Well guess what? You’re not the only one! It’s a real perceptual phenomenon called ASMR: autonomous sensory meridian response. Don’t confuse it with frisson, the full-body spreading chill you get from listening to music; ASMR happens inside your head.

It’s a pretty controversial phenomenon, which is weird because since so many people describe the exact same personal experience, it’s probably legit. It’s like a migraine — you can’t prove to someone else that it’s happening to you, but so many people have the exact same thing happen to them that we know it’s real.

Part of the reason ASMR is not widely studied is because people think it’s creepy and/or perverse. The use of terms like “Braingasm” and of ASMR-inducing YouTube videos called “Role Plays” featuring women pretending to be masseuses, doctors, parents, or even dentists and whispering directly into the camera tends to make people think that ASMR is an obscure fringe fetish. And even though it’s not a weird sex thing, it’s still a little bit sketchtastic.

ASMR actually has some practical uses. It can be used to self-treat insomnia, panic attacks, and anxiety and as a substitute for meditation or naps when relaxation is desired.

But why does ASMR happen?

Sigmund Freud would say it’s a weird sex thing. Freud thought everything was a weird sex thing.

The most widely accepted hypothesis is that it comes from childhood bonding experiences with our mothers and other trusted adults. Isn’t that just kind of nice? Finally, a perceptual phenomenon that doesn’t stem from aggression or repressed sexual desires or trauma! It comes from loving our moms (aww, insert kittens and rainbows here). That’s probably why women whispering, haircuts, having your ears cleaned or your fingernails trimmed, and many other common childhood experiences trigger ASMR. The triggers are different for everyone. Some people are even triggered by a man whispering. Some people don’t experience ASMR at all.

As far as I can tell, my one, only, and oddly specific trigger is the sounds of my parents talking quietly and making breakfast echoing through the house early in the morning , something I would hear every morning of my childhood when I woke up and to which, as a college student, I am rarely exposed. I haven’t really made an effort to find more triggers because, understandably, watching a video of a woman whispering into a 3D microphone and pretending to trim my cuticles just freaks me out a tad.

So if you’re not freaked out yet, go find your triggers! It’s a great way to waste an entire afternoon! But here’s a warning about ASMR-inducing material: some of it is cool, some will make you nap, and some is downright creepy.

For a slightly odd yet definitely G-rated ASMR video, click here!

If you are extremely skeptical of ASMR and prefer a tried and true, well-documented perceptual phenomonon, here’s a little Carmina Burana that’s guaranteed to give you frisson.


2 thoughts on “VI: Tingly Brain Has a Name

  1. Pingback: Internet at Its Best | Life is Mysterious

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