Origin Theory of ASMR 2.0

What is new in Origin Theory of ASMR 2.0?

My first Origin Theory 1.0 (posted July 13, 2014) proposed general theories about ASMR.  It was a framework for understanding the purpose and biology of ASMR.

Origin Theory 2.0 (posted Aug 16, 2014) now includes my specific theories about ASMR.  I now propose specific molecules and reasons for how ASMR initiates head tingles, relaxation, sleepiness, and elevated mood.

Why have I written an origin theory about ASMR?

For three major reasons:

1) to encourage current and new discussions about the purpose and biology of ASMR

2) to inspire others to become involved in researching the purpose and biology of ASMR

2) to offer some additional theories that could be tested by researchers investigating the purpose and biology of ASMR

This is not really one theory, but many theories.

These theories are not set in stone, they are constantly evolving due to the helpful feedback from others and due to the addition of new information and new perspectives.

What is ASMR?

I will begin with a short description of ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

ASMR is a response that is commonly described as having a narrow range of specific sensations and feelings.  Sensations include tingles, chills, and/or waves in the head, and possibly other areas.  Feelings include euphoria, happiness, comfort, calmness, peacefulness, relaxation, restfulness, and/or sleepiness.

The stimuli for ASMR (often called “triggers”) mostly fall into three main categories.

  • The first category is tactile stimuli and includes light touch, massage, hair touching, grooming, and physical examination.
  • The second category is visual stimuli and includes eye gazing and observing slow hand movements.
  • The third category is auditory stimuli and includes vocal types (eg soft, whispering, slow, gentle, increased pitch, caring, monotone), oral sounds (eg mouth sounds, chewing, blowing), and object-related sounds (eg tapping, scratching, cutting, crinkling, caressing, handling).

ASMR stimuli usually have one or more of the following traits: repetitive, methodical, steady pace, steady volume, and/or non-threatening.

The individuals that create these stimuli tend to have specific dispositions which include: kind, caring, empathic, attentive, focused, trustworthy, dedicated, and expert.

ASMR scenarios combine dispositions with multiple stimuli to result in strong ASMR reactions.  ASMR scenarios include instructional demonstrations, methodical task completion, personal attention, and consultations.  Specific examples include spa treatments, cranial nerve exams, hair salon visits, origami paper folding, unboxings, and soft spoken men painting methodically on canvas.

What is the short summary of the Origin Theory of ASMR 2.o?

Triggers that stimulate ASMR in individuals may actually be activating the biological pathways of inter-personal bonding.  Examples of inter-personal bonding include parent and infant bonding, family member bonding, friendship bonding, and romantic partner bonding.

ASMR and bonding behaviors share similar triggers like gentle touches and soft voices between individuals that trust each other, and also have similar responses like feeling comforted, feeling relaxed, and feeling secure.

Some of the basic biology of bonding is well established and this involves specific behaviors which stimulate the release of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.  These bonding behaviors and molecules may provide a good explanation for most of the triggers and responses associated with ASMR.

How exactly are ASMR triggers and behaviors similar to bonding triggers and behaviors?

The inter-personal bonding process is an important part of forming relationships all throughout one’s life, but it begins as the vital bonding process between parents and infants.

This bonding between parents and infants is important for the ability of parents to soothe, comfort, and relax infants.  The same outcomes of being soothed, comforted, and relaxed also occurs with ASMR, whether the individual initiating the ASMR is doing it unintentionally or intentionally.

Examples of individuals who may unintentionally trigger ASMR in others include clinicians, hairdressers, and painters.  Those individuals who are intentionally creating ASMR triggers are often referred to as ASMR artists.

Whether done unintentionally or intentionally, individuals who trigger ASMR in other individuals demonstrate most of the behavioral traits of bonding behavior used by parents to soothe, comfort, and relax infants.

Here is a comparison of parental behaviors and ASMR behaviors.

  • Use of whispered or spoken words that are vocalized softly, slowly, and in a caring way:
    • Parental behavior: use soft, gentle, caring vocals and whispers to soothe infants
    • Unintentional ASMR: individuals tend to have calm, gentle, and soothing vocal tones
    • Intentional ASMR: artists often use soft, gentle, caring vocals and especially whispers
  • Use of light touch and soft caresses:
    • Parental behavior: use light touch and soft caresses to soothe infants
    • Unintentional ASMR: light touch may be involved, especially true for clinicians, hairdressers, and spa treatments
    • Intentional ASMR: popular role-plays include clinicians, hairdressers, and spa treatments, and also ear caressing.
  • Use of slow and methodical hand movements:
    • Parental behavior: use their hands to distract, amuse, and soothe infants
    • Unintentional ASMR: often true for clinicians, hairdressers, spa treatments, unboxings, and demonstrations
    • Intentional ASMR: artists often use their hands to tap, scratch, unbox, unpackage, demonstrate, or just slowly move them.
  • Involvement of focused care and attention on an individual:
    • Parental behavior: usually give undivided attention when caring for an infant, and especially when soothing an infant
    • Unintentional ASMR: clinicians, hairdressers, and other experts that trigger ASMR are usually very focused on the individual
    • Intentional ASMR: most video artists are usually talking directly to and/or looking directly at the viewer
  • Importance of trust between the individuals
    • Parental behavior: the trust from the infant is greatest for the individuals that provide the most care and attention
    • Unintentional ASMR: often received from individuals we trust like clinicians and anyone that is an expert at their job
    • Intentional ASMR: the irony is that artists are strangers, but after viewing their videos there may be increased feelings of trust
  • Use of eye-contact with expressions of compassion:
    • Parental behavior: will show expressions of compassion and concern as they soothe infants
    • Unintentional ASMR: not consistently present for unintentional ASMR but can enhance it when present
    • Intentional ASMR: many gaze into the camera with expressions of compassion, concern, and empathy
  • Similarities to gender and age:
    • Parental behavior: young females of reproductive age tend to be the primary caregiver (but not always)
    • Unintentional ASMR: does not seem to consistently rely on a specific age and/or gender, this reflects other bonding experiences
    • Intentional ASMR: majority of artists are young females of reproductive age

Are the behaviors and triggers associated with ASMR also similar to other bonding behaviors?

Yes.  These bonding behaviors are extremely important for parent and infant bonding, and then continue to be involved in subsequent inter-personal bonding experiences like parent and child (rather than infant) bonding, bonding with other family members, bonding between close friends, and bonding between romantic partners.

All of these positive bonding experiences usually involve soft and caring vocal tones, gentle and appropriate touching, focused attention, a development of trust which helps to create and strengthen the bond, and eye contact that conveys honesty, closeness, and genuine emotion.

These bonding behaviors are not unique to humans, most other species also exhibit many of these behaviors.  One of the best known types of inter-personal bonding behavior seen in other species is known as “grooming”.  This grooming behavior involves focused attention and light touches which often creates and/or strengthens the relationship between the two animals.

Can the biology of inter-personal bonding help to explain the biology of ASMR?

Yes.  Studies have shown that endorphins are critically involved with parent-infant bonding.  When an infant and a parent are brought close together, the brain of the infant immediately releases endorphin neurotransmitters.  These endorphins will then bind and stimulate mu opioid receptors.  These receptors are the same ones that bind morphine and oxycodone.  Stimulation of these receptors are best known for inhibiting pain while also stimulating pleasure, relaxation, and sedation.  This immediate release of endorphins also occurs between other closely-bonded individuals like best friends and romantic partners, as well as, during grooming behaviors of other animals.

Endorphins are probably the primary cause of the tingles and slight euphoria of ASMR.  The brain is receiving stimuli that it perceives as safe and trustworthy, like the soft voice of a clinician or the grooming touches of a hairdresser – and that causes the release of endorphins.

Endorphins also stimulate dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with desire and motivation.  Dopamine helps you to recall, recognize, and focus on those things in your life that trigger endorphins, whether it is a yummy food, the comfort of a parent, your best friend, or a romantic partner.  Dopamine is probably the primary molecule that reminds an individual which ASMR videos are best at triggering endorphins, and then keeps that individual focused and watching a seemingly uninteresting video for 30 minutes or more.

The relaxing sensation felt during ASMR is also partially due to the endorphins, and also due to oxytocin – another molecule that is central to bonding.  Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is stimulated by endorphins.  This molecule is sometimes called the “bonding hormone”, “moral molecule”, or the “love drug” because it has been shown to be so important to the close bonds formed between infants and parents, or between romantic partners.  The increased levels of oxytocin between closely bonded individuals has been established in many other species.  As oxytocin increases in the brain, there is a consistent response of increased contentment, increased trust, and decreased fear.

Oxytocin is likely to be the primary cause of the comfort, relaxation, and decreased stress of ASMR.  Oxytocin also contributes to the tingles because oxytocin increases the sensitivity of endorphin receptors.  Oxytocin and endorphins together are also very good at decreasing cortisol, a hormone released during chronic stress.

Oxytocin is also a strong stimulator of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  This neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being.  Almost all antidepressant drugs increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is likely to be the primary cause of the elevated mood felt by some individuals who experience ASMR.  Additionally, serotonin is probably a strong contributor to the feelings of comfort, relaxation, and decreased stress which are initiated by oxytocin and endorphins.

The role and importance of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and sertonin in bonding experiences are well established in humans and other species.  It seems most likely therefore that if the triggers for bonding and ASMR are similar, then the biology behind the responses to those triggers is also similar.

So the positive attributes of ASMR could be attributed to the molecules central to bonding?

Yes.  Below is a summary.

Endorphins: may be strongly responsible for the euphoria and tingles and partially responsible for the comfort, relaxation, and sleepiness.

Dopamine: may be strongly responsible for the desire to experience ASMR repeatedly and the focused attention while experiencing ASMR.

Oxytocin: may be strongly responsible for the comfort, relaxation, and decreased stress, while also contributing to the tingles by increasing the sensitivity of endorphin receptors.

Serotonin: may be also responsible for the comfort, relaxation, and decreased stress, and additionally responsible for an elevation in mood as well as contributing to the induction of sleep.

Could ASMR be helpful to some individuals diagnosed with insomnia, anxiety, or depression?

There is strong potential here.  In oversimplified terms, , insomnia is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep, anxiety is extreme stress, and depression is a deep sadness.  All of these situations are clinical diagnoses because they somehow impair an individual’s health, occupation, or relationships.

The ability of ASMR to induce sleepiness, comfort, relaxation, decreased stress, and elevated mood holds great promise for individuals with these disorders.  And sure enough, there are many anecdotal reports on the internet of people sharing how ASMR has been helpful for their insomnia, anxiety, and/or depression.

Is ASMR actually beneficial for all of these medical disorders?  This has not been scientifically established yet.  The therapeutic effectiveness of ASMR by itself, or in conjunction with other medical therapies, will hopefully be revealed in the near future by appropriate medical research.

How do ASMR and the feelings associated with inter-personal bonding differ?

The euphoric and/or calming feeling someone may feel while being held by a parent as an infant, or while cuddling on the couch with a romantic partner as an adult is sometimes referred to as affection, love, and other terms.  These feelings make sense because we are with someone who we trust, who we care for, and/or who we are bonded with.  These feelings also make sense because these individuals are special to us and have clearly earned our trust and affection over time.

ASMR is somewhat different from this in two ways.

The first difference is that although similar molecules are being activated to result in a similar feeling of euphoria and/or relaxation, the triggers may not be from individuals that you have slowly developed a relationship with.  The triggers may be from strangers.  A hairdresser you just met, someone sitting next to you on a subway train, or even someone in a recorded video.

The other major difference is that you feel the activated molecules in your brain and body.  You may not get tingles every time you hang out with your best friend even though you are still most likely releasing endorphins and the other molecules.  Love and affection between family members, friends, or partners can be consistently present without consistent tingles.  ASMR is specifically the moment at which you feel tingles.  So yes, loved ones can also give you ASMR because ASMR is the moment at which those molecules are so specifically activated that you can feel them.  In fact, it may be likely for some that their loved ones are the best at activating ASMR in them.

Are endorphins also released during orgasm?

Yes, but that does not mean ASMR is a sexual feeling or a sexual response.   Endorphins are also released when you severely injure yourself, but that does not mean ASMR is an injury response.  Endorphins are just used in various responses to stimulate pleasure and/or decrease pain.

ASMR is more similar to the phase immediately after orgasm called “resolution”.  This phase involves muscle relaxation, feelings of well-being, increased desire for and enjoyment from light caressing, increased sleepiness, and an overall lack of sexual desire.  This phase has been shown to be due to continued activation of endorphin receptors, along with increasing stimulation by oxytocin and serotonin.

Why is ASMR stimulated by tappings, crinkles, and other curious sounds?

This is a good question.  My best guess is that these sounds may represent sounds made by nearby loved ones.  For example, as an infant you probably were not held by a parent for every minute, but certain soft and repetitive sounds around you meant that a parent or other protective individual was near.

ASMR sounds often tend to be non-threatening sounds.  Loud and harsh sounds rarely stimulate ASMR in individuals.  So soft and methodical sounds may activate the bonding pathways by giving comfort that a loved one is nearby based on the sounds of leaves rustling, small twigs crackling, sounds of chewing and breathing, scraping and tapping, or even the sounds of someone else nearby being groomed.  As long as these sounds are not abrupt, loud, or erratic then they may signal safety and comfort by informing us that a trusted individual is near, and this may be the reason they stimulate ASMR.

Why can some individuals experience ASMR without any stimuli?

Think about your best friend or anyone that you are close to, these thoughts may bring you slight euphoria (endorphins), comfort (oxytocin), and/or happiness (serotonin).

And similarly, just thinking about an ASMR trigger may allow for the rise of these same molecules.  Our brains perceive our “imaginations” as real stimuli.  You can do something similar by imagining food.  Thinking about your favorite food item may result in real physiological changes like salivation and increased stomach acid production.

Additional individuals have also reported feeling ASMR while meditating or self-commanding themselves to experience ASMR.  Some individuals even report spontaneous and/or random moments of ASMR in which there does not appear to be a stimulus or a pattern to the stimuli.

Why do some people experience ASMR but others do not?

Another tough question.  I believe that everyone (except for some very rare exceptions) produces endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.  But the ability to feel those molecules in response to a “strange” stimulus may differ between individuals.

It may require that these molecules need to be produced to a certain amount to be felt.  Think of a glass of water and cup of sugar.  If I put one grain of sugar in the glass of water you probably wouldn’t be able to taste it.  If I slowly kept adding sugar then at some point you would be able to taste it.  And that level of sugar to make the water “sweet” will vary between individuals.  ASMR may work in a similar way.  Some individuals may only feel euphoria and comfort by snuggling with a loved one (strong stimulus), but never feel it by watching a video (weaker stimulus).  They have a different threshold for stimuli to trigger those feelings.

What exactly determines why someone may feel the “endorphin buzz” by watching a video in their brain while others do not?  There is a variety to how much endorphin we produce and a variety to how sensitive our endorphin receptors are.  So individuals that create high amounts of endorphins easily and/or have endorphin receptors that are very sensitive may be more likely to feel the euphoria from a small trigger.  And this same concept of molecule production and receptor sensitivities applies to all the other molecules involved in bonding and ASMR.  Some of these molecular and receptor traits could be passed on through genetics.

In addition to genetics, these molecules and receptors could be influenced by the environment, diet, disorders, toxins, drugs, and even childhood experiences and cultural norms.

Why do some individuals experience ASMR, but then suddenly stop experiencing ASMR to the same triggers?

Receptors are very good at becoming less sensitive over time in response to the same stimulus, this is especially true for endorphin receptors.  This is why people who repeatedly use morphine or oxycodone (which bind to endorphin receptors) need more drug to get the same response over time.

This automatic desensitization aspect of endorphin receptors can actually make sense because of the central role of endorphin in bonding.  If you received a pleasurable high as an infant for every moment that you snuggled with your parent, then you may never leave their side.  You may never learn how to walk, never learn to forage for food on your own, and/or never venture out to start your own family.

You may also have felt the rise and fall of the euphoria associated with a romantic relationship.  The production of endorphins and/or the sensitivity of the endorphin receptors change over time based on many internal and external stimuli.  The feelings of affection may be strongest at the start of a relationship and then slowly decrease and plateau.  The bonding molecules and their receptors are changing over time.

And so it may be for ASMR triggers.  You may enjoy a specific video for a while because it is stimulating your endorphin receptors on a regular basis but over time you may become less sensitive to those triggers because your endorphin receptors have become less sensitive.

Why are there so many different triggers for ASMR?

Probably because there are so many different signals to indicate that the individuals you interact with are safe to be around.  It may be the way they speak, the way they move, the way they touch you, and/or the way they look at you.  Deciding whom to trust and whom to bond with is a simple objective based on many signals.

A good metaphor is food.  Your simple objective with food is to eat something nutritious and safe.  But determining which foods are nutritious and safe is the result of many stimuli: touch, taste, sight, and smell.  As a result, there is a large variety to what people like because people have evolved, have been cultured, and/or have been conditioned to perceive these signals differently.

So as we all have our favorite foods and foods we dislike, we all may also have our favorite ASMR triggers and ASMR triggers we dislike.

Why do some people have such a strong and negative reaction to some common ASMR triggers?

Some individuals have a strong negative reaction to the sound of whispering, chewing sounds, mouth sounds, plastic crinkling, tapping, and other popular ASMR triggers.  This type of negative reaction to a sound is called misophonia.

Misophonia to ASMR triggers is reported by those who do experience ASMR and by those who do not experience ASMR.

What causes this misophonia to ASMR triggers?  This is unknown.  One possibility is the occurrence of a negative event with that sound earlier in life.

Comparing ASMR triggers to food is a useful analogy again.   Person A may like the taste of ginger but Person B dislikes the taste of ginger.  It may turn out that person A remembers a food poisoning experience at one point that involved the taste of ginger.  Or maybe Person A has no idea why they don’t like ginger.

In a similar manner, if someone has a negative event with a specific sound then perhaps they will experience misophonia to that sound later in life.

At this point it seems the ability to experience ASMR, and the preferences for specific ASMR triggers is very subjective.  Hopefully, research will cast some light in these poorly lit areas.

*** These theories about ASMR are a work in progress, please stay tuned for more updates, additions, and changes ***

 

34 thoughts on “Origin Theory of ASMR 2.0

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  4. Hey all,

    Just curious if anyone has experienced this… sometimes at work I’ll listen to several hours of ASMR videos on youtube at a time in my headphones, experiencing the sensations throughout. Hours later, or sometimes even the next day, I’ll feel listless and depressed. Assuming too much ASMR is using up too much of the chemicals mentioned in this article, and my body hasn’t built them back up? Almost like drug users coming down off of MDMA or something of the sort? Curious if there’s any thoughts on this.

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  5. Greetings to all,

    I would like to share my view on this phenomenon.

    I think the occurrence of ASMR has to do with the communication and the processing of information between the dominant and non-dominant hemispheres of brain, and is particularly true for any sensory task. My hypothesis is that ASMR would occur whenever someone shifts his or her focus and control from the dominant hemisphere to the non-dominant hemisphere for any sensory task. I strongly believe that the occurrence of ASMR is in the corpus callosum. I also speculate that the cause of ASMR is related to the collision of signals from both hemispheres, perhaps forming some sort of constructive interference, that causes a kind of overflow of signals in that region, which propagates outward to the surface of the brain and down the spinal nerves.

    I propose here some methods to test my hypothesis. I assume any participant of this exercise to be in normal condition and health, and understands the difference between the dominant side and the non-dominant side of the body (e.g. the dominant hand, the dominant eye, etc.)

    1. Auditory: Find your favorite ASMR video and a pair of earplugs. Close your eyes and listen to the audio (or your favorite part of it) from your non-dominant ear only and count the number of ASMR occurrences. Then give it a few minutes for a break and repeat the audio for your dominant ear only. Finally, compare the number of ASMR occurrences from both trials.

    2. Visual: Find your favorite book or text. Close your dominant eye, and read a few pages with only your non-dominant eye. Be sure to actually focus with your non-dominant eye instead of just skimming through it. Count the number of ASMR occurrences, if any, and compare it to the number of ASMR occurrences when reading with only the dominant eye (which is most likely zero.)

    3. Control: Find a pen and a piece of paper. Try to write a few sentences or draw a detailed picture with your non-dominant hand (usually your non-writing hand). Be sure to make an honest attempt, even if it comes out as scribbles. Count the number of ASMR occurrences, if any, and compare it to when you are writing or drawing normally (which is also most likely zero.)

    Lastly, I think the previous commenter, Gabriel Pinheiro, is quite right that, at some point, a highly self-aware person can trigger ASMR without external stimuli. Therefore, I feel obligated to caution participants of this exercise from seeking out continuous ASMR experiences. Even though I don’t believe ASMR has any long term harmful effect, I do think prolonged exposure to ASMR can create fatigue, change mood, and disorient attention in the short term. However, I also think ASMR increases creativity in the short term.

    Hopefully, some researchers can formally utilize some of these ideas to test the validity of my hypothesis and speculations. I also hope people would quit the nonsensical internet fad surrounding ASMR, in particular, the whispering. But that could be a stretch.

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    • I have given some more thoughts to this phenomenon, and I would like to modify a few ideas that I have stated previously.

      I have indicated before that I think ASMR occurs when a person shifts control of a sensory task from its usual dominant hemisphere to the sub-dominate hemisphere. However, I now think that is not quite the whole story and that switching of control is not the original cause of ASMR. Given that for the sub-dominate hemisphere to control a task that is normally done by the dominate hemisphere, the sub-dominate hemisphere is probably not accurate in its execution. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the sub-dominate hemisphere probably fires a series of non-precise signals during the short instance of switching, when both hemispheres are trying to control the same action. I think it is in this instance when the two incompatible, and perhaps conflicting, signals meet in the corpus callosum, some interference occurs, at least occasionally, that creates the sensation of ASMR. Furthermore, since this line of speculation has to do with how experienced a person is at using each hemisphere, I would go out on a limb to suggest that unintentional ASMR triggering, such as those from switching, occurs most frequently in strong left or right handed people while much less in ambidextrous people. Although, I suspect ambidextrous people have a much better feel for the actions of their hemispheres that they can induce ASMR without external stimuli. In addition, also want to modify my claim that ASMR is limited to sensory tasks, as I now think it has a much larger domain including, for example, attention and thinking. In other words, I think ASMR is, in a sense, the litmus test for the proficiency of each hemisphere at a particular task, mental or physical, where little or no ASMR means expertise in using both hemispheres at such task.

      Whatever the case, I must admit that some aspects of ASMR still eludes me, so my current understanding and speculations are by no means final.

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      • My theory is very simple: ASMR, which I have always called “the hum” as a feeling, is triggered by infant memory of the sights and sounds of being in the total love and care of their mother. This is why everyone has somewhat unique triggers.

        My mother vacuumed the home every day before she gave birth to me, and now if someone is vacuuming in my area at work and I feel they are calm and capable, even though I don’t know them, I don’t particularly like them, and I’m working on my computer, “the hum” can kick in. Other triggers for me can include Osteopath treatment, someone emptying my garbage pail, electrician calmly working on a panel, and a hair cut. Watching the Youtube video of Baba the Cosmic Barber giving scalp massage can partially invoke “the hum”.

        My brother experiences the same. This has happened for us far before Youtube existed, and I only learned what ASMR means yesterday.

        If the brain runs on a frequency like a CPU, I would expect it changes while this mode is active.

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    • I experience ASMR only through my right side. My right ear and right side of the head and right side in my back, I cannot feel whatever sounds in my left ear at all. I do not understand why, as my left ear has no hearing loss or aything. So your concept may very well hve basis in my situation. My right side of my head, scalp and neck are also extremely sensitized compared to my left side, and I am an extremely self aware person, as you put it. I am able to get high feelings just from thinking abt things, I am a person who had used opiate drugs in my past and could increase the feel of it simply by concentrating, I can orgasm without touching my body just from thoughts also. I have an extremely hard time in life because all loud sounds, all loud voices and crying children gives me sudden and extreme violent or angry tendencies that I then have to sit there and control in public. In order to deal with riding on public transit I have to either listen to music and otherwise drown out sound. I have never experienced ASMR in a public setting and did not know I had it until I watched it in videos. I am far more triggered by direct ear stimuli, only on the right, and hand and other movements. I do not ever use ASMR for sleep as most do, I watch videos from start to finish and hear the whole story so they must be interesting ones like roleplays. I am also triggered by the strange, scary, louder and bizarre videos far better. I am myself an odd person and I relate to odd videos, Such as Ephemeral Rift, or Danny Docile who do videos abt insanity, aliens and monsters, drug dealers etc. I am triggered by regular audible speaking more than whispers, unlike most. Accents also. I do have issues with low endorphin release and lack of feel good hormones, yet all this still works for me anyhow. Also, lastly I still enjoy the repetative and so called ” uninteresting” videos even at times when they give no tingly sensation whatsoever. It holds my interest either way for whatever reason. And I watch all things over and over, ASMR videos, and also the same movies, music videos, I read the same books 20 times, Etc. So repeating is in my nature.

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  11. While I am certain there is a biochemical component to the ASMR, I feel that this response may be a non-local phenomenon. If the mainstream medical models are used, then we are simply grand biological machines. If I consider different paradigms that include the multidimensionality of the human consciousness, then perhaps I could gain a greater intuitive knowing of the phenomenon. I understand the difficulty in gathering empirical data on something as ephemeral as a chakra ..say. But I am an old man, so, I must leave this research for the young.

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  15. I can’t agree at all with the interpersonal bonding theory. I think you’ve got the molecules targeted pretty well, but I experience ASMR much more as a purely physiological response and think it’s due to the grooming behaviors of primates, as mentioned above. The evolutionary basis of such behaviors is encouragement of social bonding: when you’re around others you get the ASMR reward from their behaviors to you. But, there are now many ways to be triggered that involve no interpersonal bonding at all.

    It’s not just “soft voices” or gentleness, which parents, etc., will exhibit. It’s a particular tonal quality of voice and deliberate, measured speaking and crisp sounds. Hands working slowly and deliberately with precision and expertise. A visual stimulation of a physical feeling in you, as when seeing a hand slowly sliding over fabric makes you feel that sensation in your own hands.

    I think it’s hard-wired, and the threshold for some people experiencing the release of chemicals is lower than for others. But that everyone is biologically set up to be pleased by such stimuli.

    Because the calming, pleasure-inducing chemicals are released during interpersonal interactions and also in ASMR does not mean that one is the cause of the release in the other. Lots of things, like exercise, cause endorphin release.

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    • I tend to agree. Because growing up I recall specific spunds that meant my father was near typing in his office, or sewing machines were nused near by my mother, that comforted me greatly, however those sounds do not give me ASMR or any calm feeling now. In fact they kind of make me sad now. But things I never heard growing up such as really strong foreign accents can trigger ASMR, and I do not have to even like the person talking in videos, its all about the sounds and speech and motions. I am also a highly unsexual person and do not experience attraction for others based on look, I may possibly even be aesexual to a large degree, so I am not motivated by that either.

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    • Understandable mistake : )

      Pharmacology is filled with similarly-named generic and trade drug names, naloxone (inhibitor of endorphin receptors) and naproxen (inhibitor of COX enzymes) are terrific examples of two drug names that look alike.

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    • Using naltrexone (or naloxone) is a great suggestion. These drugs inhibit endorphin receptors and so if the initiation or specific aspects of ASMR are dependent on endorphins then someone using naltrexone should have altered ASMR.

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  16. Maybe some experiments could be constructed to test parts of this theory using specially constructed videos on YouTube along with an anonymous survey. With large numbers of volunteers and well designed tests a lot could be learned at a low cost.

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  17. I agree there’s a strong interpersonal element in the so called ASMR. Precisely for that reason I’d suggest other approaches which are not so much focused on the hormonal basis and more on the interpersonal phenomena. Some good candidates in contemporary science could be the mirror-neuron system theory, or theories of embedded and embodied cognitive science.

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  18. “And similarly, just thinking about an ASMR trigger may allow for the rise of these same molecules. Our brains perceive our ‘imaginations’ as real stimuli. You can do something similar by imagining food. Thinking about your favorite food item may result in real physiological changes like salivation and increased stomach acid production.”

    I don’t think this is right. I can trigger ASMR without any stimuli. For me is like a muscle contraction, but inside my head. I don’t need to think anything to provoke it and can do it at any time and circumstances.

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    • The “muscle contraction” desciption you used in describing triggering your own asmr is spot on. Its the same for me. Its a concentrated effort that as long as i can hold it produces the effect in my head and back. Super sensitivity, like dropping over a dip of a roller coaster.

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    • yes! i have the same !! i can trigger this feelings whitout any external stimulation!! i dont have to see hear o feel anything i just do it like when someone move a limb, it just does it, i can be see stuff or not, touching or not,hearing or not this has nothing to do whit the outside world for me,theres no external stimulation required. and i cant make it happend since i was a kid, i fact i having using like… forever, when i got hurt as a child for example playing soccer,cos i dont feel any phisical pain when im doing it. its a brainsnestetic no just a braingasm, im just found out this have a name!!!! im thrill!!

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  19. This is my theory:
    Human beings have a rudimentary grooming behaviour response similar to other primates, and most people experience a pleasant sensation from light, repetitive touches to the skin or hair, similar to what happens in a haircut or back massage. But because grooming no longer serves the important social functions in humans as it does in other primates, some of the neurological machinery has been co-opted in evolution to process other kinds of sensory information. Occasionally, though, or in certain individuals, certain qualitatively similar sounds or images, especially soft, rustling noises, or the image of calm repetitive finger movements, still trigger a pleasant, relaxing physical sensation, similar to what you would experience if you were a monkey and another primate was gently and attentively running his fingers through your fur, looking for parasites. Too much of a stretch?

    It is interesting how many of the ASMR videos do include images of finger movements of some kind, (even Bob Rossi painting) often with fingers moving across a surface, such as carpet, a fuzzy towel, the bristles of a bath brush, a wicker basket, crinkly plastic, glass beads. And it’s interesting that the sensations people experience are reported to be in the scalp, ears, the back of the neck and shoulders. It also seems significant that it’s rarely sounds from machines or nature that induce ASMR, but sounds that appear to be deliberately produced by a person, who, in the ASMR videos is very close up. And many of the “role playing” or “personal attention” asmr videos actually do simulate grooming activities like hair brushing, hair cuts, make up application.

    Neuroscientists like VS Ramachandran describe cross activation of brain regions, which are either closely situated or evolutionarily connected, in relation to other types of sensory phenomena, such as synethesia, so it may be something worth looking into.

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