Student at City University London writes scientific article about ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityJasmin Ojalainen is a 3rd year undergraduate student at City University London in the United Kingdom. She is a Journalism major and was recently assigned to write an article as a final project in a Science Journalism class.

Jasmin chose to write her scientific article about ASMR.

She interviewed individuals whom experience ASMR, ASMR researchers at the University of Sheffield, a neuroscientist at Liverpool John Moores University, myself, and she additionally included some data from the first peer-reviewed 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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ASMR videos: relaxing or creepy?

The term “creepy” is often used by individuals to describe ASMR videos which they find disturbing.

This is curious to me.

Why is it that two individuals can watch the same video and one person feels relaxed by it and the other person feels creeped out by it?

And why is the word “creepy” so often used but never the word “frightening”?

There must be something common to a relaxing situation and to a creepy situation that is not common to a frightening situation.

And there is.

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Wooster College student researching the effects of ASMR on social cognition

Amy Huffenberger is an undergraduate student in the Neuroscience department at Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio.

She is doing her senior thesis project on ASMR, under the guidance of Professor Grit Herzmann Ph.D.

Amy shares her motivations, research objectives and challenges, and also offers insightful suggestions to future ASMR researchers.

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

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A primatologist shares her thoughts about the potential biology of ASMR

Dr. Amanda Dettmer has her Ph.D. in neuroscience and behavior.

She has been studying the mother-infant bond in rhesus monkeys for over 10 years.

I asked Dr. Dettmer some questions about animal behavior and ASMR.

She did a terrific job of summarizing her knowledge, experiences, and research in primatology and applying it to ASMR.

Dr. Dettmer even suggests some simple experiments that could help to identify the biology of ASMR.

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

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How to measure oxytocin levels during 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.

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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ASMR, hypnosis and oxytocin.

ASMR and hypnosis have a lot of similarities.

The process for both can involve eye gazing, soft and almost monotonous vocal tones, methodical sounds, significant trust, and rhythmic movements of hands or objects.

The outcome for both involves being relaxed.  ASMR is a lower level state of relaxation and hypnosis is a deeper state of relaxation.

The person inducing the relaxation in both situations is often a real or simulated expert, giving focused one-on-one attention, with a trustworthy disposition and a non-threatening nature.

Overall, it would seem likely that anything known about the biology of hypnosis may be relevant to the biology of ASMR.

So what is known about the biology of hypnosis?

A recently published article highlights one molecule that is probably involved in hypnosis, and it is a molecule that I have also theorized is central to ASMR (see my Origin Theory of ASMR for full details).

The title of the article reveals the molecule, “Hypnosis, attachment, and oxytocin”.

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