Emma Barrett and Nick Davis actually proposed a body map of the ASMR sensation in their 2015 research paper.
They created the image of the body map from the data gathered in their survey. The image shows that the strongest ASMR sensations were in the head, spine, and shoulders – and got weaker with distance from the head.
Their image of the ASMR sensation is almost identical to body map images in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal titled, “Topography of social touching depends on emotional bonds between humans.”
The body map images in the PNAS paper were created from data reported by participants about where they would allow partners, family, friends, and others to touch them.
The investigators also gathered data about the emotional bonds between the participants and the perceived touchers, as well as, the pleasantness of the touch.
Data analysis demonstrated that the allowance to be touched was correlated to the emotional bond with the toucher, and also was correlated with the pleasantness of touch.
In other words, the participants in the study trusted and enjoyed the touch of romantic partners, close friends, and close family members more than the touch of strangers, acquaintances, and distant relatives.
Not a shocking discovery – but the body maps are very cool to look at.
So how do the body maps in the PNAS paper compare to the body map from the ASMR paper?
The PNAS body map of being touched by one’s mother was most similar to the ASMR body map, and the PNAS body maps of being touched by one’s father or friends were also very similar to the ASMR body map.
The two PNAS body maps which were most different from the ASMR map were the body maps of being touched by a stranger or by a romantic partner.
Being touched by a stranger resulted in a body map with a lot less areas compared to the ASMR map, and being touched by a romantic partner resulted in a body map with a lot more areas compared to the ASMR map.
Comparing these two papers provides some indirect and inconclusive support that ASMR may use the same or similar biological pathways that are used when being touched in a non-sexual way by a trusted individual.
It would be best for some scientists to use the same methodology from this PNAS paper to create ASMR body maps – then the body maps could be more directly compared for interpretation.
Another interesting idea would be to compare a body map (ASMR and/or touch) due to a ‘vocational stranger’ like a clinician or hairdresser to a body map due to a ‘situational stranger’ like someone you might meet on a bus.
What ideas do you have? Share your research ideas or feedback on this topic below.
Click HERE to access the images and content from the PNAS paper.
Click HERE to access the image and content of the ASMR paper.
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This post brought to you by ASMR University. A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.