Meet the researchers who published the first biological study about ASMR-sensitive individuals

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityBeverley “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.

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Researchers use fMRI to publish first biological study about ASMR-sensitive individuals

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityIn 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.

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Update: Can the light from an ASMR video interfere with sleep?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityUpdate:

A research study came out this week that is relevant to one of my prior posts (pasted in below).

This research supports the concern that the light from an electronic device can interfere with sleep.

The study is published in PNAS, a well respected journal.

The authors showed that reading from an iPad (compared to a printed book) increased the time it took to fall asleep, reduced melatonin secretion, and reduced morning alertness.

Click HERE to access the research abstract.

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Can the light from an ASMR video interfere with sleep?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityUsing a laptop, tablet, or phone at bedtime is pretty common these days.  And watching an ASMR video to help relax the brain before nodding off is becoming even more common.

But there could be a problem with this method of relaxation.

Several studies have shown that being exposed to light from a computer screen at bedtime can interfere with sleep onset and/or sleep quality.

So how do computer screens interfere with sleep?

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How to measure oxytocin levels during ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityIf 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.

Until now.

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.

What did they find?

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The potential involvement of GABA in ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityIt 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.

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Could ASMR keep your brain “young”?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityYes, watching one ASMR video can immediately make your brain 15 years younger.


No.  Sorry to disappoint you.

That is not disappointing at all to someone who is 15 years old, who wants to go back to drooling and diapers?!

Good perspective.

Do you have any real science to report today or is this just the world’s most misleading post?

Yes, I do have some real science to report today that can be related to ASMR.

OK, let’s hear it.

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Can ASMR help you to have less toxins in your brain?

ASMRYes, but not directly.

If ASMR helps you to get more sleep then that could result in less toxic chemicals in your brain, in a way that I will explain shortly.

Was this research done with ASMR and humans?  Nope, it was just done with sleep-deprived non-human animals.

Which animals exactly?

Curiously, the news article that I linked to at the end of this post did not say what species.  Mice or rats are a good guess though.

Where was the research done?  At the Metropolitan Autonomous University.

“Autonomous” University?!  Say what-huh.

Am I messing with you?   Continue reading