February 17th, 2014 No Comments

ASMR: The Brain Orgasm

Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli. The nature and classification of the ASMR phenomenon is controversial. Tom Stafford, a professor at the University of Sheffield, says, “It might well be a real thing, but it’s inherently difficult to research.”

It is indeed very curious, but I bet you have already felt it yourself. And while nobody seems to provide a complete scientific explanation, so far at least, a whole online community has blossomed around this phenomenon and you can now easily find an ASMR video on youtube, from people who took their time to produce ten minutes of gentle whispering, hair brushing, and lots of other activities which are known to be ASMR triggers.

As for the fancy name, Jenn Allen, credited with originating the term, explains that “autonomous” refers to the idiosyncrasy involved with people who experience ASMR, as the response varies from person to person, while “meridian” was used as a euphemism for orgasm

Other examples of videos you may find on youtube include descriptive sessions, in a style similar to guided imagery, for experiences such as haircuts, visits to a doctor’s office, and ear-cleaning. While these make-believe situations are acted out by the creator, viewers and listeners report an ASMR effect that relieves insomnia, anxiety or panic attacks.

These videos are mostly created by young (and usually attractive) females, although none of the videos have any sort of sexual appeal as you might think. Maria, aka GentleWhispering, is the reigning queen of the ASMR videos, with over 34,000 subscribers to her channel and 12 million views. She mostly speaks directly at the camera in her accented English, giving a Russian language lesson or pretending to be a physical therapist or just talking about her life or answering questions sent to her by her fans. Sometimes she crinkles bags or folds napkins or shows off some souvenirs she bought in the Dominican Republic.

Maria’s success might also have something to do with the fact that, like most other whisperers, she is young, female, and good-looking in a nonthreatening way. Generally speaking, head tingles and sex don’t mix (the “NSFW ASMR” section of Reddit hasn’t caught on), but physical attractiveness can’t hurt. As for the lack of male whisperers, Maria offered a fairly simple explanation: “If a guy is in front of the camera and whispering,” she said, “there aren’t many things he can do that won’t seem creepy.”

So, if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend that you do so in any quiet moment you have with some good stereo headphones. Trust me, that can become a real therapy for you.

previous post: Notes on Blindness

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