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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The potential biology of ASMR stimulated by light touch

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityPopular triggers for ASMR include someone playing with your hair, cutting your hair, stroking your arm, drawing words on your back with their finger (back writing game), and/or examining you for health concerns (clinical exams).

What do all these strong triggers for ASMR have in common?

Light touch.

Being touched lightly has been perceived as pleasurable for a while.  In contrast, the biological understanding of these pleasant sensations has only recently begun to be understood – and may help to understand ASMR.

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Neuroscience graduate student writes extensive scientific article about ASMR

Kerin Higa is a student in the Neurosciences Graduate Program at University of California, San Diego.

She has published research about behavioral abnormalities in mouse models of psychiatric illness and is currently researching how mitochondrial dysfunction may be contribute to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders.

Kerin also enjoys writing about science for the general public and science communities.

She has written for the “Gene-of-the-week” blog for and is currently writing for the neuroscience blog, NeuWriteSD, which was founded by students in her graduate program. Her writing topics have included hoarding, dissociative identity disorder, and additional behavioral mysteries.

But the latest blog topic she tackled was the science of ASMR. Her in-depth article is titled “Technicalities of the tingles: the science of sounds that feel good. #ASMR” and was posted at the NeuWriteSD blog on June 11, 2015.

In my interview with Kerin she shares her love for Bob Ross, the five most important points in her article, helpful tips for writing about the science of ASMR, and more.

Below are my questions in bold followed by her replies in italics.

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The science of ASMR from a BBC article

An article about ASMR was posted yesterday at

The article focuses mostly on ASMR artists (Emma whispersredasmr, Maria gentlewhispering, & Laura Stone) and the art of ASMR, with some minor mentions related to the science of ASMR.

A neuroscience professor provided his thoughts about the mechanism of ASMR.  Quote from the article:

“Frances McGlone, professor of neuroscience at Liverpool John Moores University. I contacted him because I hoped he might be able to explain the mechanism which produces such a distinctive physical reaction from such a diverse range of stimuli. He couldn’t, because no-one has researched the question. “In a quick look on the more respected search engines for published scientific research I couldn’t find anything that supported a neurobiological basis for why these sensory experiences should be provoked by observing these ASMR videos,” he tells me.

McGlone further expressed concern about home-brewed alternative therapies in general and a potential erotic element of ASMR.  Quote from the article:

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