I’m happy to share that I am one of the co-authors of the first published study to show brain activity during ASMR.
The study is titled, “An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the ASMR” and was published by Bryson Lochte, Sean Guillory, Craig Richard, and William Kelley in the journal BioImpacts on September 23, 2018.
One of the biggest questions about ASMR is, “What is happening in the brain?” Although this study doesn’t fully answer that question, it is the first data to provide some direct insights.
Participants quietly layed down in fMRI machines, watched ASMR videos, and their brains were scanned during moments of brain tingling – and then those brain images were compared to moments without brain tingling.
The brain regions that were strongly activated during ASMR were similar to those regions activated when humans, and other animals, perform soothing social behaviors – known as affiliative behaviors. Typical examples of affiliative behaviors include calmly sitting close to each other, touching each other gently, and mutual grooming.
So how exactly was this study done?
Flo has his Master’s Degree in German and currently teaches German at a college in Paris.
He also creates ASMR videos for his YouTube channel, Paris ASMR.
Flo became inspired to create a video which merged together relaxing music, tingly French whispers, scenes of Paris, and hypnotic street dancing.
William Halimou (Will) is a 4th year undergraduate student at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, USA. He is a neuroscience major with a strong interest in music composition and ASMR.
For his Sensory Neuroscience Senior Seminar course he decided to write a review paper about music-induced chills, and he also included ASMR in his paper.
Will shared his paper with me and I found it very well researched and written. His depth of knowledge on music-induced chills and interest in ASMR made him a terrific resource for comparing these two phenomena.
Jocelyn Morlock is the Composer in Residence of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in Canada.
She has the admirable distinction of being the first woman composer in residence in the history of this orchestra.
Now she has another terrific distinction – she may be the first person in history to create an orchestral composition inspired by ASMR.
And the title of her musical composition does a wonderful job of evoking ASMR.
Relaxing music and ASMR triggers have their similarities and their differences.
Similarities include: both can induce relaxation, both have strong auditory component, and both can induce a type of chills or tingles.
Differences include: music is almost all auditory (vibrations can be another sensory input method), the type of chills induced are slightly different, and music may have a stronger emotional component.
And then there is the biggest difference of them all.
An article about ASMR recently appeared in the NY Times electronic blog section and in the print version on page D6.
It was a well written article authored by a woman with insomnia who accidentally stumbled on ASMR videos while hoping to find soothing videos of rustling papers.
She explains how she did find some lovely crinkling paper ASMR videos. These videos ended up helping her with her insomnia better than several other prior treatment types.
The article provided a good overview of ASMR and mentioned some top artists like Maria of Gentle Whispering and Heather Feather.
She also talks about how many of the scientists she reached out to were reluctant to talk about ASMR.
But not all.