In 2016, Stephen Smith and Beverley Fredborg from the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada published a research paper about ASMR and brain activity (summary, interview, podcast episode).
The dynamic duo has now done it again, publishing their second research paper about ASMR.
The paper is titled, “An Examination of Personality Traits Associated with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)” and was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology on February 23, 2017. The article was authored by Beverley Fredborg, Jim Clark, and Stephen Smith.
The goal of the study was to investigate if ASMR is associated with specific personality traits, and they also analyzed data about the perceived intensity of specific ASMR triggers.
In this podcast episode, I will be summarizing the second peer-reviewed research publication about ASMR and sharing an interview with the authors.
The paper is titled, “An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)” and was published in the journal Social Neuroscience on May 31, 2016. The authors are Stephen Smith, Beverley Fredborg, and Jennifer Kornelsen from the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada.
This podcast episode will cover the following topics:
What is fMRI?
What did the experiment reveal about ASMR?
What challenges did they encounter during this project?
Beverley “Bev” Fredborg recently received her B.Sc. degree in Biopsychology from the University of Winnipeg and will soon be starting a Master’s degree program in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
She is currently a research assistant with Dr. Stephen Smith, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Winnipeg.
I initially interviewed this duo in July of 2015 when they began to work together on an ASMR survey project.
And now I am fortunate to do another interview with them about their very recent and exciting ASMR research publication involving fMRI.
In 2015, Emma Barratt and Nick Davis published the first peer-reviewed research study about ASMR. Their data were collected from online surveys and were very helpful to provide support about the sensations and potential applications of ASMR.
Now, Stephen Smith, Beverley Fredborg, and Jennifer Kornelsen from the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada have published the second peer-reviewed research study about ASMR.
A key difference between these two publication is that the more recent publication by Smith et al is the first biological publication about ASMR.
If someone wanted to measure oxytocin levels during an ASMR experience, or compare oxytocin levels in individuals that do experience ASMR vs individuals that don’t experience ASMR – how would that be done?
There are two methods for directly measuring oxytocin.
The first method would be to measure the oxytocin in a person’s brain and spinal fluid. The upside of this method is that these levels are probably most accurate for any effects oxytocin may be having on behavior. The downside of this method, as you might have guessed, are the safety issues and expenses with doing this.
The second method would be to measure the oxytocin in a person’s blood. The upside of this second method is increased safety and decreased costs compared to trying to access someone’s brain and spinal fluid. The downside of this second method is that it is not known if the oxytocin measured in someone’s blood is an accurate reflection of the oxytocin in someone’s brain and spinal fluid.
A recent research study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry has determined if blood levels of oxytocin are an accurate measurement of brain and spinal fluid levels of oxytocin.
The study also looked to see if the levels of oxytocin were associated with anxiety.
It has been widely reported that many individuals find ASMR helpful to reducing their anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
If there was one neurotransmitter that was known to reduce all three of these disorders then it might be appropriate to theorize the involvement of that neurotransmitter in ASMR.
Well, the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) may be a terrific candidate.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that is widely released throughout the brain. It is well understood to have an inhibitory effect on most neurons. Another way to view this is that GABA tends to calm, comfort, and soothe other neurons.
Is GABA involved in treating anxiety disorders? Yes. Drugs like Xanax and Valium are benzodiazepines which are anti-anxiety medications. These kind of drugs reduce anxiety by enhancing the effect of the patient’s natural amounts of GABA.
Is GABA involved in treating sleep disorders? Yes. Benzodiazepines are also widely used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
So are benzodiazepines widely used for depression? No. The most common type of medication used to treat depression are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs increase the amount of the patient’s natural amount of serotonin.
So GABA has not been viewed strongly as being involved in the therapeutic role of SSRIs for depression.
But a recent research publication in the journal Science challenges that view.