Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

During the pandemic, I have to take online courses as an international student. Since I have a different time zone from eastern standard time, it’s very hard for me to stay a healthy life style. Initially, I tried to take melatonin to help with my sleep. However, it didn’t work so well. When I was complaining to my friend, she mentioned ASMR. This is how I get to know it and start to watch ASMR video.

ASMR is a response that is commonly described as having a narrow range of specific sensations and feelings. It’s both a physical and an emotional experience. The physical sensations usually start with a tingling in the scalp that spreads across the head and neck, and often travels to the arms and legs. Accompanying these physical sensations are powerful feelings of pleasure, a rush of relaxation and calm, and a deep sense of comfort and well-being.

Some of the most common ASMR stimuli involve watching and listening to people performing simple, common tasks and routines, such as folding laundry, flipping through books, combing hair and eating. Whispering is the most common and popular ASMR stimulus. Those features associated with the intimate bonding between parent and infant are important to the parent’s ability to soothe, comfort, and relax the infant. Whether the person initiating ASMR does so unintentionally or intentionally, ASMR produces the same results of soothing, comfort and relaxation.

Not everyone experiences ASMR, and we don’t have scientific evidence of its prevalence in society. The pioneering ASMR study conducted in 2015. It found that most people who experience ASMR report having their first experience of it during childhood. Through this and other studies, we’re beginning to identify some of the condition’s characteristics, and some shared attributes among people who experience it.

The picture above shows how ASMR is theorized to work. Serotonin is released from the pituitary gland, elevating mood and inducing sleep. Oxytocin is also released from pituitary gland, causing relaxation and increased endorphin receptor sensitivity. Endorphin is released from the pineal gland, causing feelings of euphoria and tingling sensations. Different networks of the brain such as vision, touch, hearing and concentration activate atypically, resulting in a blend of senses similar to synesthesia. However, not all of the included information has been clinically proven.

In the study about fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying ASMR, researchers have ten ASMR-sensitive subjects participated in the study. Participants viewed ASMR videos and pressed one of 3 buttons during the videos to indicate baseline sensations, relaxing sensations, or tingling sensations. Whole brain activations were observed during the video clips and compared to the 30 second fixation period between the videos. They observed significant brain activation in the mPFC during ASMR. This brain region is associated with self-awareness, social cognition, and social behaviors including grooming. Although the participants were watching recorded videos, these results may indicate that ASMR videos activate the brain similarly to actual social engagement. Oxytocin has been shown to bind to receptors in the mPFC and mediate relaxation responses. The activation of the mPFC during ASMR may also suggest a potential contribution of oxytocin to the relaxing sensations during tingles.

Reference:

  1. Lochte, B., Guillory, S., Richard, C., & Kelley, W. (2018). An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the Autonomous sensory MERIDIAN response (ASMR). Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  2. How researchers are beginning to gently probe the science behind asmr. (2017, March 16). Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  3. Rene, Richard, D., Matt, Anonymous, Kaufman, K., Loaiza, J., Glasby, D. (2020, December 19). Origin theory of ASMR. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  4. Breus, M. (2019, June 25). Can asmr help you sleep better? Retrieved April 27, 2021.

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