The Delicious Tingly Sensation That Travels From Your Brain To Your Spine, Explained

ASMR practitioners give millions of people goosebumps by whispering into microphones on YouTube

If you’ve ever heard of “brain orgasms,” it’s likely you’ve gone on a late-night YouTube binge after asking Google why your head gets tingly sometimes. The sensation, formally referred to as autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR, is practiced by millions of “ASMRtists” who have devoted entire video channels to the phenomenon and its common triggers, which can be auditory, visible, or tactile.

Triggering someone else’s ASMR, whether by whispering, hair brushing, or turning pages, has been likened to foreplay, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the overt flirtatiousness of many ASMRtists. But experts and practitioners agree that for most people, ASMR isn’t a sexual response at all. Dr. Kat Van Kirk, certified sex therapist and resident relationship expert at Adam and Eve, defines it as “a euphoric experience that many say feels like a tingling sensation through the body. It often starts on the scalp and moves down the neck and upper spine.”

But if it’s not related to sex, what exactly is this warm, fuzzy feeling?

Since the first peer-reviewed study about ASMR was published in 2014, there is increasing support that the relaxing vibes may be due to the release of endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin—similar to what happens in the body during orgasms, yes, but also to a baby being soothed by his or her mother. Conducted by Swansea University, the study’s findings were drawn from a poll of 475 people in various online ASMR groups, finding a significant correlation between watching and listening to ASMR stimuli and an improvement in mood, anxiety, and even pain.

“I learned about ASMR because people were mentioning it in the comments of our instructional massage videos,” says Corrina Rachel, a certified holistic health coach and ASMR practitioner. Her YouTube channels boast 2 million subscribers, including more than 270,000 ASMR devotees, with tingle-producing clips that have collectively drawn more than 82 million views.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]I think that people are looking for new sensations to experience intimately.[/quote]

“Between the vocal control I had learned as a singer and my obsession with creating a calming ambiance, I felt like I had always been an ASMRtist and just didn't know it yet,” Rachel says. Everyone is triggered by different things, so virtually anything could be a trigger. I personally love the sound of wooden bowls, perhaps because it's an earthly sound. I find it very grounding.” Rachel’s most popular video, with more than 3 million views, features her whispering into a microphone while massaging a blonde woman’s scalp and brushing her hair.

For those looking to experience the phenomenon for themselves, Dr. Craig Richard, an ASMR researcher, biopharmaceutical sciences professor, and ASMR University founder, suggests exposing yourself to a wide variety of content. “Finding specific triggers is like finding your favorite foods at a buffet,” he says, “You should sample widely to find those stimuli that best suit you.”

Opportunities to discover your triggers are much easier now that the ASMR community has moved far beyond its humble 2008 origins in online discussion groups, permeating a seemingly boundless variety of media and creative art platforms, from ASMR-inspired dances and commercials to whispered news reports.

According to Richard, becoming a successful ASMRtist is now a very competitive prospect, requiring a mix of natural talent and dedication. The artists who are the most genuine and consistent will continue to amass followers. “I strongly believe that ASMR videos are not a trend, but the discovery of a new media form which will continue to be prevalent because it taps into a human need to be soothed and relaxed,” he says.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]ASMR videos are not a trend, but the discovery of a new media form which will continue to be prevalent because it taps into a human need to be soothed.[/quote]

Van Kirk envisions ASMR being introduced in therapeutic applications—psychologically, medically, and in virtual reality. “I think that people are looking for new sensations to experience intimately and that any experience that promotes well-being and a calm nervous system without the use of pharmaceuticals is worthwhile. Especially now, when we’re looking at individuals in a more holistic manner,” she says.

Although more research needs to be done, Van Kirk says the physiological and psychological response is likely an evolutionary product of the nurturing and bonding tendencies mammals developed by caring for one another. This could explain why the vast majority of ASMRtists are female. “It's not an all-women thing,” Rachel says, “but men tend to not talk as softly as women. I also think about the nurturing, motherly aspect that women are more inclined toward.”

[quote position="right" is_quote="true"]It's not an all-women thing, but men tend to not talk as softly as women. [/quote]

Dr. Richard credits YouTube ASMRtists with contributing greatly to the initial understanding of ASMR. The sheer vastness, demographic diversity, and global representation of their followers has provided strong support that ASMR is a relatively common biological response rather than a cultural phenomenon. “I believe these video artists have helped to create the initial understanding about ASMR, which is being confirmed by scientific investigation,” he says.

If nothing else, ASMR is the likely result of the placebo effect, which has real physiological effects. For Rachel, ASMR is not so much about science as it is about being in the moment. “We live stressful lives these days, and most of us know that feeling of lying in bed at night unable to stop all the frantic thoughts and worries,” she says. “Auditory and visual triggers move our attention from those worried thoughts and put us in the moment, intensely focused on the tiny details that we usually don't notice, such as the sound emitted when tapping on different objects or scratching different fabrics.”

Psychologists and other experts have committed to learning more about what triggers these reactions and, thanks to their work, we could be close to getting some answers. Since that first 2014 study, a second report was published in 2016, followed by nearly 10 other global ASMR research projects currently in progress recently completed. And Richard, along with his team, has launched an ongoing ASMR research survey, so far attracting more than 19,000 participants from over 100 countries.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Watching an ASMR video in the middle of the day in a brightly lit office is like trying to enjoy cake while someone is yelling at you.[/quote]

But you don’t have to wait for concrete results to start your own ASMR experiment. If you’re anxious to know what triggers your “brain orgasms,” Adam and Eve has developed a quiz that can detect your sensitivity to certain sounds, sights, and movements.

But don’t be disappointed if you fall short. Not everyone has triggers, and your surroundings play a vital role. “Watching an ASMR video in the middle of the day in a brightly lit office may be like trying to enjoy a piece of cake while someone is yelling at you,” says Richard. “ASMR content is best experienced in a quiet and dimly lit place where the person can relax their body and mind to focus on the content.”

So, once you’ve found a quiet place and time to start experimenting ASMR, keep an open mind. Perhaps you’ll find yourself soothed by Corrina Rachel’s ear massage with intense wet mouth sounds or soft-spoken personal attention with gentle whispers. Or maybe the combination of relaxing sounds with adult coloring books will do the trick.

And as they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try Bob Ross. The painter’s hushed voice and methodical brush strokes are top ASMR triggers. And even if he doesn’t make you feel tingly, nothing could go wrong with a half hour or two of Bob at the canvas—right?

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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