Have you ever gotten goosebumps when someone whispered in your ear? Or experienced that chilling, brain-tingling sensation when listening to a white noise machine? If you know what I'm talking about, but have never been sure how to describe those sounds or sensations, it's called an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), and it happens when you're exposed to certain triggers, like whispers or soothing crackles. But ASMR doesn't just feel cool; a new study claims that listening to and watching ASMR videos is actually good for you.
In case this is a totally foreign concept to you, an ASMR video is simply a recording (usually with both audio and video, though sometimes it's just audio) that simulates certain soothing sounds and visuals (think isolated sounds of scissors cutting through fresh construction paper, or long nails lightly tapping on a table) to elicit that tingly, satisfying response in your body. And according to new research, that response is something of an "orgasm" for your brain, not to mention it's apparently good for your overall health.
This new study comes from researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK, who were interested in taking a deeper look at the physiological effects of ASMR on the human body. During this testing, which was the first of its kind, the researchers found that people's heart rates fell significantly while watching ASMR videos, compared to people who didn't watch these videos under the same experimental conditions.
According to the study, these results suggest that ASMR "may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health."
Dr. Giulia Poerio, a researcher on the study from the university's psychology department, said in a statement that, despite the fact that many people first encounter ASMR during their childhood, this study is the first of its kind to really explore, in detail, the effects of ASMR on the human body. She explained,
...awareness of [ASMR] has risen dramatically over the past decade due to internet sites such as YouTube and Reddit.
Dr. Poerio added,
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.
In one of their experiments, the researchers looked at the physiological shifts in participants (half of whom said they'd experienced ASMR, while the other half said they had not) when they watched two different ASMR videos, and one non-ASMR video. They found that the heart rates of people who'd already experienced ASMR in the past were reduced by roughly three beats per minute, compared to those who weren't familiar with ASMR prior to the study.
On top of that, those who experienced ASMR reported "significant increases in positive emotions including relaxation and feelings of social connection." Not bad, right?
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.
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.
So if you aren't really into meditation, and music doesn't really do much to relax you either, listening to and/or watching some ASMR videos might be the better route to go for finding a sense of calm at the end of a long day, or even during your commute to work.
The researchers also conducted a second experiment for this research, in which 1,000 people completed an online survey after watching provided ASMR and non-ASMR video clips. The participants answered questions about how frequently they experienced those "brain orgasms," how they felt emotionally after watching these types of videos, and their general experiences with ASMR triggers and sensations.
After analyzing the responses, the researchers found that people who reported experiencing ASMR sensations typically felt "more frequent tingling, increased levels of excitement and calmness, and decreased levels of stress and sadness."
So tell me: What do you feel when you watch the above video of a woman tapping her nails on a table, or when she turns the pages of a book? Feeling the brain orgasm yet?