Jasmin Ojalainen is a 3rd year undergraduate student at City University London in the United Kingdom. She is a Journalism major and was recently assigned to write an article as a final project in a Science Journalism class.
Jasmin chose to write her scientific article about ASMR.
She interviewed individuals whom experience ASMR, ASMR researchers at the University of Sheffield, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University, myself, and she additionally included some data from the first peer-reviewed publication about ASMR.
In my interview with Jasmin she shared why she selected ASMR as her topic, her challenges of writing the article, what she thinks is the biggest mystery about ASMR, and tips for others whom may write scientific papers about ASMR.
Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, and a link to her article.
Why did you select ASMR for your scientific paper project?
Jasmin, “ASMR is a rather compelling scientific mystery that in my opinion deserves a little more recognition, so the topic came to me quite naturally. I do experience ASMR myself so there’s also an element of personal curiosity.
I think one of the most important questions in science and life in general is “why?” and that’s essentially what I wanted to focus on with this project. We may know how something happens but often more intriguing is why it happens or what it is exactly.
I’ve also followed media coverage on the topic and wanted to bring something more to the table; I wanted ASMR to be taken a little more seriously in scientific terms. In a way I wanted to spread public awareness and give it some validity (for instance, even my module leader had not heard about ASMR before).”
What key things about ASMR will readers learn from your article?
Jasmin, “Those who aren’t familiar with ASMR will learn what it is, why it’s interesting and currently being studied. Those who experience or know about ASMR will hopefully learn more about it; what we know, what we don’t know, and what we wish to know.
Those previously unfamiliar with ASMR may also be surprised to learn the magnitude of the online community, which brings us to the subjective reports (what ASMR feels like and how it helps the viewers, for instance) and explains why researchers are so eager to obtain data that validates them. And who knows, perhaps some people will even learn that they do in fact experience ASMR themselves!”
What one thing about ASMR do you think readers will find the most interesting?
Jasmin, “I’m sure there can be various points of interest depending on what you already know, but the fact that not everyone experiences it definitely makes it all the more curious. We know that ASMR exists due to tons of anecdotal evidence reporting the same constellation of symptoms, but at the same time it’s a highly subjective experience and hence difficult to research. This is also where a lot of scepticism comes in, some of which people may find interesting.”
What did you learn about ASMR that surprised you the most?
Jasmin, “Perhaps the recentness of ASMR as a scientifically recognised phenomenon surprises me the most; the fact that many people recall experiencing tingles in their childhood but we’ve only recently established what ASMR is and how to possibly research it.
Otherwise I’m not sure there was something in particular that took me by surprise. I just tried to do as much as background research as possible and approached every aspect with an open mind. Personally I was keen to find out more about the methods in ASMR research, i.e the physiological measures that the ASMR Research Team in Sheffield are focusing on.”
How did your understanding of ASMR change while writing the article?
Jasmin, “I think I now truly understood what a complex phenomenon ASMR is. I didn’t expect definite answers as I know some research is still in progress or pending peer review, but I’d like to believe that some sort of breakthrough might be on its way.
To me it’s always fascinating to see how sensory conditions that combine physiological, neurological and even psychological factors are so multilayered. Mainly my ASMR project just proceeded to show what a wonderfully intricate mosaic the brain can be.”
What challenges did you have with the researching and writing of the article?
Jasmin, “My main concern was getting in contact with a good range of balanced interviewees, namely appropriate experts in the field as well as a case study who experiences ASMR. I was very fortunate in that sense because everyone involved in my project has been extremely kind and helpful.
Other challenges were mainly journalistic. I obtained a lot of material, more than I was able to fit within my word count, so I only included what I thought were the most relevant parts in a way that both remained loyal to the science and my readers could understand.
To me the challenge of science journalism is building on accuracy while making it accessible to my audience – it’s the marriage of breaking down science into simple terms and telling a story. I really had to think what not only serves my narrative, but my readers as well.”
What reactions have you gotten to the article?
Jasmin, “Very positive reactions. Many were not familiar with ASMR before reading my article and were interested to find out about it, even to see whether they experience ASMR themselves.”
Do you plan to write more about ASMR?
Jasmin, “I’d love to follow up on the story and see how the understanding of ASMR develops over time. Especially if I end up going into science journalism and with all the contacts I’ve made, this particular story is definitely something I’d keep up my sleeve.
It seems that more and more research is constantly underway and the scientific census is shaping all the time, so I’m sure we can expect to hear a lot more about ASMR in the (hopefully near) future.”
What is the biggest scientific mystery to you about ASMR that you would like scientists, researchers, and/or clinicians to figure out in the near future?
Jasmin, “The biggest scientific mystery to me is what happens inside the brain during ASMR and why it manifests this way. I suppose the question I’d like answered next is why there is such a distinctive and euphoric response from this kind of stimuli.
I’d like to see neurological studies, perhaps even fMRI or other magnetic stimulation technologies used in ASMR research in the future to identify possible biological correlates as I think they might be instrumental in explaining a little more about the mechanism.
It was interesting to learn that hormones like oxytocin might play a role in the biochemical recipe, and I’m curious to know whether this is the case.”
Where do you think the understanding and application of ASMR will be in 10 years?
Jasmin, “I’d like to think that ASMR awareness is growing universally with the current scientific interest, accumulated knowledge and public outreach. In 10 years we’ll hopefully know a whole lot more, if not all the answers.
Perhaps in retrospect we can mirror ASMR research with the history of synaesthesia, which is now a globally recognised condition but propelled into the scientific and public rhetoric only a few decades ago. Ideally we’ll get there with ASMR as well.
I personally believe in ASMR’s benefits, even if for short-term relief or alongside professional aid, and would love to see more research regarding its therapeutic potential. There are ASMR spas opening already and although I don’t know whether this sort of thing works as intended, I think it’s an interesting concept to keep an eye on – perhaps something that could become more commonplace in 10 years’ time.”
What advice or tips would you give to someone writing a scientific paper or article about ASMR?
Jasmin, “At the moment it can be challenging to find an original angle until more research is published. At this stage as an understudied phenomenon ASMR has its sceptics and it’s important to note how these people view the phenomenon, and why – for instance, ASMR lacks neurological studies so criticism understandably comes from that realm.
As with any scientific writing, critical thinking, a balancing view and accuracy are key. It’s quite vital to find the right people to interview and ask the right questions in order to bring out something new every time.
I’d also encourage close analysis of published research, where it came from, how it was presented and how it can be turned into a story. Looking at some previous media coverage can be helpful in generating ideas; if you don’t have an exclusive groundbreaking story, you can always turn ideas around and look at them from a different perspective.”
Click HERE to read Jasmin’s scientific article about ASMR.
Click HERE to read more about the science of ASMR.
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