ASMR: When Sounds Tickle Your Brain

Do you have a little brain quirk that puts you in happy trance whenever you hear certain, soft sounds? Well, you’re in for a treat, because it’s a “thing,” and there are YouTube channels just for you. “For some percentage of readers,” writes Loz Blain of Gizmag, “this article could make a major positive impact on your life…”

Despite the very official-sounding name ascribed to it, there is no science to prove the existence of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. We have no idea what percentage of people have the ability to experience it, where it comes from, what it’s for or what brain mechanics are involved.

But if you’re lucky enough to be able to feel it, there’s a growing and thriving community out there producing thousands of free samples of canned pleasure and relaxation.

Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance. As soon as she started talking, it felt like my brain would start tingling. Her measured cadence and accent felt almost like some sort of mind massage. It was incredibly relaxing – and felt amazing…

I started to notice that certain voices and accents would give me these “braingasms” as I started to call them, and if I stumbled across the right voice I’d turn to jelly. I remember keeping one poor telemarketer on the phone for ages, just asking her to keep repeating herself as I melted into a pool of sheer relaxation.

An old girlfriend and I discovered that we could create a similar effect by softly crunching ice cubes in each others’ ears – something about the sound would give us goosebumps all over. It was fantastic, but I never really thought much more about it…

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25 Comments on "ASMR: When Sounds Tickle Your Brain"

  1. Jason Archdeacon | Feb 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm |

    Bob ross! I also experience this asmr visually, when watching people doing intricate or meticulous tasks… bob was something of a double whammy. (That’s what she said)

    • Bob Ross popped a lot of ASMR cherries.

      • American Cannibal | Feb 9, 2014 at 8:38 am |

        breathing…brush strokes…mouth licks…voice…hum of studio lights…


        • Calypso_1 | Feb 9, 2014 at 11:15 am |

          I’m sure it had something to do with his production crew as well.

          • American Cannibal | Feb 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm |

            Everyday is a good day when you paint. Make love to the canvas. Happy little trees…happy accidents… no limits here…

            Bob was HOT.

          • Calypso_1 | Feb 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm |

            I still recall the childhood awe of watching him and realizing that trees too could be your friends.

          • American Cannibal | Feb 9, 2014 at 8:21 pm |

            He’s a classic, and his artist wisdom will last forever.

  2. I had no idea this s actually a thing.
    I first experienced this as kid getting a hair cut. The sounds of the scissors and the touch of the comb on my scalp, pure bliss, ahhhh.

    • The hair trimming sound is a very popular trigger. People on YouTube record it using binaural mics.

      I always loved the electric shaver thing they used to straighten your neckline, etc.

    • Jason Archdeacon | Feb 9, 2014 at 7:11 am |

      I love the sound of scissors, and the slow measured movements of precise cuts.

  3. BrianApocalypse | Feb 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm |

    ASMR is a label to a phenomenon I had been seeking out on the internet for years. It was a very pleasant surprise to discover there was a whole community creating content for it. It’s like being in some kind of blissful hypnotic trance, and from what I can gather (from asking everyone I know if they experience it ever since I discovered there was a name for it) just about everyone has felt it a few times in their lives.

    It was an extremely elusive experience before a community sprung up around it, mostly only being found by chance “in the wild”.

  4. Earthstar | Feb 8, 2014 at 6:46 pm |

    I’m so addicted to this new thing I just discovered!
    I also sometimes experience ASMR when I focus on beautiful things in nature.

  5. Gjallarbru | Feb 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm |

    Since I have a rather substantial hyperacousia problem, I would have thought that I could possibly be sensitive to this asmr. But frankly, as usual, hyperacousia makes all sounds at least a little disturbing, if not painful. The problem has even gotten worse over the years.

    I am jealous of those whom can enjoy sounds like that.

    • Whatever ASMR is, it seems to work both ways. The sounds that some people enjoy are strangely annoying or uncomfortable for others. Obviously, the people who like it are the ones who are going to form communities and write articles.

      I experience most ASMR triggers positively, but I find chewing/crunching *extremely* annoying.

    • BrianApocalypse | Feb 9, 2014 at 8:36 am |

      Most of the ASMR videos out there don’t do much for me. For example a lot of them involve whispering and I just find that irritating, and the tapping stuff doesn’t really do anything for me either. I find more than anything it’s the manner in which some people talk that do it and also the performance of small meticulous tasks. Perhaps you could try something more along those routes to experience it without any aggravating sounds.

      • Gjallarbru | Feb 9, 2014 at 8:53 am |

        Good suggestion, I will try it.

        I’m just trying to enjoy my hearing for once. I hear so many sounds that others barely perceive, and everyday sounds so loudly, most of the time I just want to turn my ears off. Some, whom have it worse than I, actually go all the way to having their auditory nerves surgically cut, at least in one ear.

        To put things in perspective, eating at a busy restaurant is torture for me. I can still listen to music, but others would find that I usually listen at barely audible levels for them.

  6. Never heard of this before but i kinda dig it.

    I swear though, a lot of it was her voice; she’s got Morgan Freeman syndrome: could listen to her read a phone book.

  7. Earthstar | Feb 8, 2014 at 8:37 pm |

    How about people who like fingers on chalk boards and that kind of thing. Do they experience a similar reaction? I can’t say that I like the chalk board thing, but I do get pleasurable shivers even briefly thinking about it.

    • Scratching and tapping are common ASMR triggers. You might want to do a search and see if you find anything you like.

    • Calypso_1 | Feb 9, 2014 at 12:32 am |

      Many of the triggers are sibilant sounds which have the bulk of their energy at around 4000Hz which is the same for fingernails on a chalkboard.

  8. Interesting

  9. Apathesis | Feb 9, 2014 at 9:13 am |

    So that’s what it’s called!?

    I remember fondly having the sensation quite often as a child. Not sure what triggered it though. I would love to experience it again.

  10. Haystack | Feb 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm |

    She has a really pretty voice.

    It’s really silly, but I get this lady’s voice stuck in my head:

    • Aram Jahn | Feb 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm |

      Not silly at all…I found her sounds/voice/auditory “presence” spellbinding!

      Or maybe we’re both just weirdos on the same wavelength, which – I’ll speak for myself – I’m very much okay with.

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