ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a term coined in 2010 to describe the deep feelings of euphoric relaxation often accompanied by a pleasant tingling sensation in the scalp. This tingling looks a bit like very fine ice droplets. People who have experienced such a condition sometimes describe it as ‘brain tingling’ and ‘brain orgasm.’
ASMR is often caused by soft sounds, light touch, and personal attention from someone saying or whispering sweet things to you softly. You can now find thousands of ASMR videos on Youtube. There is something for everyone because everyone has different preferences and gets an ASMR experience from other things.
What is ASMR?
According to an ASMR study from the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield in England, ASMR creates “tingling sensations in the crown of the head in response to a variety of audio-visual triggers such as whispering, tapping and hand movements.” The whole point of ASMR is to relax people with a pleasant feeling.
With the rise of the internet, people who had these ASMR experiences were better able to find each other, and it soon became apparent that there was no name for the symptoms. The formal terms used mainly referred to orgasm since the symptoms cause a strong euphoric or even orgasmic feeling in many people and are strongly reminiscent of sexual arousal.
Sexual arousal has spawned a whole genre of “ASMRotica Videos” aimed at being sexually arousing.
Jennifer Allen participated in an online forum in 2010 and was the first to use the term “autonomic sensory meridian response.” She stated that the phenomenon is generally unrelated to sexual arousal, but that experience may vary from person to person.
The term “autonomous sensory meridian response” is made up of:
- Autonomous – spontaneous, self-managing, with or without control
- Sensory – about the sensory experience or sensation
- Meridian – indicates a peak, climax
- Response – refers to an experience caused by an internal or external trigger
Allen confirmed in a 2016 interview that she had consciously chosen these terms because they were more objective and clinical than the formal terms for the sensation.
I gained my own first ASMR experience in the gym during my hour-long cardio sessions. The combination with orchestral trance music gave me a tingling scalp, a feeling like cold water was running down my spine down my neck. The feeling slowly ebbed away after the workout, but I was still ecstatic.
Listening to certain trance music has always given me these phenomena. Goosebumps, a euphoric feeling, and seemingly endless energy made listening to this music almost addictive. The combination of intensive exercise always made the experience many times more intense for me.
Since science is lagging behind researching the physiology behind this phenomenon, I started researching myself. The audio-visual triggers mainly affect people who are sensory sensitive. Soft crackling sounds, subtle movements, and empathetic looks can easily trigger sensory-sensitive people.
People who attend festivals, constantly overloading themselves with stimuli such as drugs and alcohol and loud music, will be less sensitive to ASMR triggers.
The triggers give a calming feeling. This feeling is due to the increased production of the calming and rewarding neurotransmitters endorphins. This calms the nervous system and makes you feel relaxed and satisfied.
Frisson, goosebumps, and enjoyment through music
ASMR is often compared to musical frisson, a condition in which music, certain clients, or chords give you goosebumps. With a frisson, you feel tingling in the scalp, neck, and shoulders and a wave of vibrations through the spine. These sensations are experienced during peak moments of emotion in music, such as in orchestral trance music. These delightful sensations often occur during physical movements such as sports, dancing, or other activities where we are in a state of flow.
Research on ASMR
The first peer-reviewed research study on ASMR was published in 2015 and indicated that people who watched ASMR videos feel the strongest tingling in response to whispers and personal attention. (R) The study participants reported that they relaxed, ran out of videos, or even fell asleep.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study examined the differences between ASMR-sensitive and ASMR-insensitive subjects during resting-state scans. The ASMR-sensitive individuals showed regions of decreased connectivity in the precuneus and thalamus and regions of increased and decreased connectivity in the frontal gyrus and temporal gyrus. This study showed the differences in the brain structure of those who do and do not experience ASMR. However, no research is available that has observed brain activity during an ASMR experience itself.
Neuroimaging studies have identified the brain regions and neural mechanisms that are active during musical frisson. A positron emission tomography (PET) study showed that musical frisson increases activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), insula, and the additional motor areas (SMAs). Decreases activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). (R) Another study, which included PET and fMRI studies, showed that frisson was associated with dopamine release in the NAcc. (R)
The book Brain Tingles by Craig Richard Ph.D. is a good book to get acquainted with ASMR and what it can do for you in your daily life.
Types of ASMR triggers
In recent years ASMR has developed strongly, and different types of ASMR movements have emerged. Most of these movements can be found on Youtube, but there are also specific websites where you can find these videos.
Whispering is by far the most common ASMR trigger and occurs in most ASMR videos. Some ASMR makers speak softly instead of whispering, but regardless, a soft voice will induce tingling in almost everyone. Sometimes certain words or sounds are emphasized or repeated for their particularly relaxing effect. These can be especially effective as relaxation before going to sleep. Although you can listen to an ASMR video through stereo speakers, it might be much more pleasant to listen to the video through a headband with built-in Bluetooth speakers.
Tapping is the gentle tapping with the fingertips or nails on a surface. Many ASMR specialists are creative with the surfaces they tap, such as plastic packaging, a glass dish, or a wooden board.
Most ASMR videos also associate with physical touch. Everyone has felt wonderfully relaxed at the hairdresser, during a massage, or in another situation where you received personal attention. The most common use of physical touch in ASMR videos involves the sound of playing with the hair or touching the face.
Personal attention is what every person desires. Nothing is better than the feeling that someone cares about you and wants to spoil you with attention. This attention can be physical touch, but of course, also an empathetic look or looking at you with uninterrupted attention and talking to you, where ASMR tingles take over you.
Turn the page
Some ASMR videos focus on the crackling sounds of turning pages. For many, reading is a relaxing activity, and watching and listening to someone else can cause ASMR symptoms.
Not all ASMR focuses on sound. Some ASMR videos show someone moving their hands in front of the camera. While it may sound strange to someone who has never experienced ASMR, elegant hand movements can be very exciting to some.
In many ASMR videos, the creator plays a roleplaying game, such as a doctor’s visit, a hairdresser’s visit, or a cuddle party with a partner. These videos can be very personal and create an engaging experience for the viewers that provides intense and blissful relaxation.
While some people are disgusted by watching and listening to people eat, others may enjoy sounds such as biting, chewing, or slurping.
Watching someone concentrate on a task can be relaxing for many viewers. Consider, for example, the broadcasts of artist Bob Ross, speaking softly.
Massages are the ultimate in relaxation. Even if you cannot experience it physically, it can be relaxing to watch someone else give or receive a massage. The triggers of personal attention, physical touch, and soft speech can be an excellent way to relax.
Crinkling / Squishing (creasing / squeezing)
This trigger involves creasing or compressing materials, such as plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or bubble wrap. Squeezing a tube or soap bottle can also cause ASMR effects.
Lathering their hands with soap, shampoo, or other liquids can cause very subtle sounds, making some people feel pleasant.
Make your own ASMR
ASMR is hot, and especially if you are in a “niche” and do it well, you can build a successful YouTube channel in a reasonably short time. Your success stands or falls with good equipment, the right environment, and of course, the right skills, but you can learn them!
ASMR is still growing in popularity
Main factors for good ASMR sound
To get a good ASMR recording, or a recording, you need to consider three main factors:
- The source
- The material
These three factors are inseparable and essential for a good ASMR video. If any of these three factors lags, the result will suffer. With the tips and tricks below, I’ll show you how to get the best out of your ASMR videos.
Of course, the sounds and images you produce with your recording depend largely on what you say and whisper. So you will need to have a certain degree of microphone skills.
While you may think it’s pretty simple, a super sensitive microphone takes some skill. And while small details seem minor, they can have a significant impact. A few things to keep in mind are:
When recording micro-triggers such as whispering, breath sounds can be disturbing. To avoid this, try to breathe away from the microphone.
Sometimes S-sounds get harsh and annoying, depending on the position of your front teeth. So practice and experiment with that. Some microphones can also respond more strongly to those sounds than others. If you want to reduce the hiss during recording, try not to speak directly into the microphone but slightly off-axis.
Other sounds that the microphone can respond to are the plosives. These are the letters P, T, and B. Those letters can create blasts of air that can ruin the recording, so it’s essential to use a pop filter as a standard.
The proximity effect (distance) is a phenomenon that emphasizes an increase in bass reproduction when you get too close to a directional microphone. When you get closer than 25-30 centimeters to the microphone membrane, you will notice that your voice gets more and more bass. Keep this in mind during admission.
Pay attention to the clothes and movements you make. Some clothes creak with every move, disturbing for your recording, in which you want to emphasize other subtle sounds. Before recording your first ASMR video, you should experiment a bit with how the microphone responds. If you know your equipment well, you can take better shots.
You will not immediately make your first recordings in a professional, acoustically isolated recording studio. Since ASMR recordings are very sensitive to ambient noise, keeping the recording space as quiet as possible is essential. Background noise such as a washing machine, computer fan, or air conditioner can ruin your recording. Noises from neighbors or in the street can also be a disruptive factor. Choose a time when the chance of being disturbed is minimal, such as late at night.
Room reflections and resonances echo all sounds. You should therefore avoid naked walls as much as possible. Keep in mind that you need absorbers to prevent echo and resonances in your sound. Provide a thick curtain for the windows, a carpet on the floor, or the wall. A good solution is a cheap bubble mat to dampen the reflections of high frequencies. Every little bit will help you improve the quality of your ASMR recordings.
The quality of your equipment is just as important as the experience you have. A seasoned ASMRtist will get better results with inexpensive equipment than an inexperienced person with the most expensive equipment.
What equipment do you need to start with ASMR?
Of course, you can use your smartphone for your first ASMR video. Still, if you want to get started professionally, you need professional equipment, such as a professional camera and microphone.
Keep in mind that you also need to edit your recordings, such as cut, paste, and fade. You must make sure that your video is in sync with your audio.
A nice intro and outro make your recording professional. Some ASMRtists use iMovie (Free), DaVinci Resolve (Free), Adobe Premiere (Paid), or Final Cut Pro (Paid).
Multiple YouTubers use additional software, a professional digital audio workstation (DAW), to filter unwanted noise and other unpleasant sounds.
You must use a stereo sound source as the audio interface. Therefore, choose an interface that offers at least two microphone inputs. Many Youtubers work with two or even three or four microphones. Since a condenser microphone provides much more detailed sound resolution, the interface’s preamps should offer them with 48V phantom power.
The best ASMR microphones
Investing in the best possible ASMR microphone will give your recordings a big quality boost. To achieve professional sound quality, you need to use condenser microphones with high sensitivity and low self-noise.
When recording ASMR videos, you want to capture as many subtle details as possible. The sensitivity of a microphone is in, for example, -54 dBV / Pa. The closer this value is to 0, the more sensitive the microphone is.
The self-noise is in dB (A), which means that if you have a microphone with 7 dB (A) self-noise, you have to play a sound of 7 dB (A) to drown out this noise. The lower the noise value of a microphone, the better it is for recording subtle sounds.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB +: This microphone’s tone at higher frequencies is incredibly clear, making this a top ASMR microphone. The results when recording whispered ASMR sound natural and dynamic, making it seem like you’re actually in a room with someone rather than listening to a recording.
Blue Yeti Series: This mic is highly sensitive and produces a crystal clear sound, and can handle various sounds thanks to their wide frequency response. Due to the omnidirectional capabilities, purchasing two of these microphones will make binaural recording considerably easier.
Shure SM7B: The Shure SM7B is by far the best microphone for speech and vocals. It is priced a bit higher but features a detachable close-talk windshield, perfect for getting close to the microphone capsule and speaking in a soothing voice or a whisper. The dynamic cartridge uses a flat, wide-range frequency response for clean, natural reproduction of the audio. The mid-range emphasis with a low bass roll-off gives a big boost to vocal clarity.
If you want to make ASMR yourself, make sure you practice a lot, watch and listen critically to your recordings and ask for feedback from people in your environment. When you receive criticism, be aware that this is just someone’s opinion and that you can learn wise lessons to improve your experience.