ASMR: know what it is and how the technique went viral on the internet

A lot of people must have seen on YouTube some videos of people whispering, making some noises in the microphone or just chewing. Usually the acronym ASMR appears associated with this material, which promises a pleasant sensation in the body generated by an external stimulus that, in the case of ASMR videos, can be audible or visual.

These videos have existed for many years on the streaming platform, but during the pandemic they ended up gaining prominence, with an increasing number of people looking to the ASMR “techniques” for a way to relax, relieve anxiety, have pleasant feelings or just be able to sleep one little.

ASMR is an English acronym for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which in free translation means “autonomous sensory meridional response”. But this translation brings even more doubts than clarifications. So, let’s try to gradually understand what ASMR is.

Understanding ASMR

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The phenomenon is sometimes popularly called “orgasm in the head” or “tingling of the brain” because those who have experienced it usually report a sensation of numbness in the back of the head or neck, which occurred shortly after the sensory stimulus.

In some cases, sound stimuli, such as whispers, laughter and the noise of a vacuum cleaner, are accompanied by some visual “pleasures”, such as popping bubble wrap, chewing on delicious food, or cutting objects. It is estimated that there are now more than 11 million videos with the acronym ASMR on YouTube.

Interviewed by the website Brain and Health, neurologist Alvaro Sánchez Ferro, of the Spanish Society of Neurology, says that ASMR does not have a solid scientific basis, with about a little more than a dozen studies on the subject published.

For Sánchez, most of the research cannot be validated, since most of the tests were done with people already predisposed to feel the phenomenon. Furthermore, in none of the known studies has it been demonstrated what happens in the brain when watching these videos or why some people feel the tingling and others do not.

Most watched ASMR content and videos

Source: Lilliana Dee / ReproductionSource: Lilliana Dee / ReproductionSource: Lilliana Dee

In one of the surveys, carried out by neuroscientists at Swansea University, in the United Kingdom, several triggers responsible for arousing feelings of pleasure and relaxation in those who watch the videos were identified. The researchers identified the stimuli preferred by people and made a ranking. See below:

  1. Whispers (75%)
  2. Personal attention (69%)
  3. Clear sounds, like hitting nails, scratching and more (64%)
  4. Slow sounds (53%)
  5. Repetitive sounds (36%)
  6. Smile (13%)
  7. Airplane noise (3%)
  8. Vacuum cleaner noise (2%)
  9. Laughter (2%)

Another ASMR technique that also went viral on YouTube is the reproduction of sounds that simulate everyday situations that spontaneously have a relaxing effect on the viewer. They are called roleplays.

ASMR Channels on YouTube

Many people have searched for ASMR on YouTube. The topic is currently the third most sought after. The most accessed videos are those that promise a feeling of calm and concentration through external stimuli. See some of the main ASMR channels.

Sweet Carol

Mariane Carolina, Sweet Carol, lives in Itapira, in the interior of São Paulo, and her channel has more than 1.82 million subscribers. Spreading diverse content in vlogs and chats, the strong point of the channel is the ASMR videos, where sweet Carol tries to inspire and relax her followers, promising that everyone can feel lighter.

Zach Choi ASMR

This Korean-American content creator combines elements of ASMR and mukbang, a type of live very popular in South Korea, in which people show up eating large amounts of food. Zach Choi has over 10.7 million subscribers to the channel, and has an impressive 1.76 billion views.

Gentle Whispering ASMR

Russian-American Maria Viktorovna is the “gentle whisperer” who has more than 1.9 million subscribers to her YouTube channel. She declares herself an ASMR artist and directs her stimuli to people with sleeping problems.

ASMR Bakery

ASMR Bakery works mainly with beat videos, without conversations. Some of them, like the one shown above, are three hours long, which works as a good company for sleepless nights. Among the ASMR stimuli, besides the strikes, it presents scratches, strokes, friction, wrinkling, cutting, notching and classification.

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