THURSDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2022
“Tingling in the scalp, almost like a head orgasm but there's nothing sexual to it.” — in 2007, a discussion was started on a message board called ‘SteadyHealth' about a ‘weird sensation that feels good’. This feeling, which happens randomly but most frequently when listening to soft voices, has since been coined ‘ASMR’ — Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Dr Giulia Poerio at the University of Essex has found ASMR to have both emotionally arousing and relaxing effects, including improving moods and relieving chronic pain. However, not everyone seems to experience ASMR, making scientists wonder whether ASMR is even real.
Although uncertainty remains, a 2018 fMRI-based study by Bryson Lochte and colleagues indicates that oxytocin and other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins may be involved in ASMR. Variation between individuals in the number and sensitivity of receptors for those neurotransmitters could explain why some people never experience the sensation. In a 2015 paper by Dr. Nick Davis and Dr. Emma Barratt at Swansea University, people suffering from depression seem to experience a stronger boost from ASMR, suggesting that the effect might harbour therapeutic potential. Therefore, ASMR, despite facing skepticism, may well be real, and might even be beneficial for individuals who experience it.
Denise Tran is a first year studying Natural Sciences at Robinson College.