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Brain Tingles: The Physiological Benefits of ASMR

Summary: Researchers reveal the phenomenon of ASMR videos may have a positive physiological effect on viewers. The study reports those who experience ASMR have lower heart rates while watching the videos, as well as an increase in positive emotions.

Source: University of Sheffield.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) – the relaxing ‘brain tingles’ experienced by some people in response to specific triggers, such as whispering, tapping and slow hand movements – may have benefits for both mental and physical health, according to new research.

In the first study of its kind into the physiological underpinnings of ASMR, researchers from the University of Sheffield found that those who experience the phenomenon had significantly reduced heart rates while watching ASMR videos compared to people who do not experience ASMR.

ASMR is the sensation experienced by some people in response to specific sights and sounds, described as a warm, tingling and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body. The ‘tingles’ – sometimes described as ‘brain tingles’ or ‘brain orgasms’ – are typically accompanied by feelings of calm and relaxation.

There are more than 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube – including medical examinations, haircuts and massages and folding towel tutorials – which people watch to relax, relieve stress or sleep better. However, while there has been research into other similar experiences such as awe and music-induced chills, research into ASMR has been limited.

Dr Giulia Poerio, of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology, said: “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.

“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.”

Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology investigated whether ASMR is a reliable and physiologically-rooted experience with the potential to benefit the physical and mental health of those who experience it.

the researcher

ASMR is the sensation experienced by some people in response to specific sights and sounds, described as a warm, tingling and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers.

In one experiment, they studied the physiological changes that occurred when participants watched two different ASMR videos and one control (non-ASMR) video in a laboratory setting. Half of those who took part in the study were recruited because they identified as experiencing ASMR, with the other half were recruited as age and gender matched controls who did not experience ASMR.

The study found that those who experience ASMR showed significantly greater reductions in their heart rates when watching ASMR videos (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared to those who do not. They also showed significant increases in positive emotions including relaxation and feelings of social connection.

Dr Poerio said: “Our studies show that ASMR videos do indeed have the relaxing effect anecdotally reported by experiencers – but only in people who experience the feeling. 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.”

In another experiment, over 1,000 participants filled in an online survey after watching a selection of ASMR and control (non-ASMR) video clips, stating how frequently they experienced ‘tingles’ and their emotional response to each video. Those who experience ASMR were also asked also answered questions about their common ASMR triggers and general experiences of ASMR.

The study found that, compared to non-ASMR participants, those who experience ASMR reported more frequent tingling, increased levels of excitement and calmness, and decreased levels of stress and sadness. There were no significant differences between ASMR and on-ASMR participants in their affective responses to the control videos.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Hannah Postles – University of Sheffield
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers.
Video Source: Video credited to University of Sheffield.
Original Research: Open access research for “More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology” by Giulia Lara Poerio , Emma Blakey, Thomas J. Hostler, and Theresa Veltri in PLOS ONE. Published June 20 2018.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0196645

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Sheffield “Brain Tingles: The Physiological Benefits of ASMR.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 22 June 2018.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/asmr-physiology-9426/>.
University of Sheffield (2018, June 22). Brain Tingles: The Physiological Benefits of ASMR. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved June 22, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/asmr-physiology-9426/
University of Sheffield “Brain Tingles: The Physiological Benefits of ASMR.” http://neurosciencenews.com/asmr-physiology-9426/ (accessed June 22, 2018).

Abstract

More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) describes the experience of tingling sensations in the crown of the head, in response to a range of audio-visual triggers such as whispering, tapping, and hand movements. Public interest in ASMR has risen dramatically and ASMR experiencers watch ASMR videos to promote relaxation and sleep. Unlike ostensibly similar emotional experiences such as “aesthetic chills” from music and awe-inspiring scenarios, the psychological basis of ASMR has not yet been established. We present two studies (one large-scale online experiment; one laboratory study) that test the emotional and physiological correlates of the ASMR response. Both studies showed that watching ASMR videos increased pleasant affect only in people who experienced ASMR. Study 2 showed that ASMR was associated with reduced heart rate and increased skin conductance levels. Findings indicate that ASMR is a reliable and physiologically-rooted experience that may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health.

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