There are some 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube, and countless enthusiasts around the world who love the brain tingles that come with listening to a whispering hairdresser, a keyboard being tapped on, a pomegranate being opened, an iPhone being unboxed, or Bob Ross just Bob Rossing.
Fans of the videos swear these tingles are a real phenomenon, but with limited research on the topic, conversations about the relaxation benefits of ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) have been largely anecdotal—with fans extolling the benefits on Reddit or the YouTube comment section.
Science is catching up, however: Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology recently looked into whether ASMR is a physiologically rooted experience that could affect the physical and mental health of those who experience it. They conducted two different experiments among people who identified as experiencing ASMR, as well as a control group made up of people of the same age and gender who did not experience ASMR. In the first, 1,002 people watched videos with and without ASMR triggers, and then reported how they felt. The participants who self-identified as experiencing ASMR reported more both more calmness and less stress and sadness.
In a new paper, researchers Giulia Lara Poerio, Emma Blakey, Thomas J. Hostler, and Theresa Veltri unveiled their results. They found that those who experience ASMR showed “significantly greater reductions in their heart rates when watching ASMR videos (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared to those who do not.” They also found significant increases in relaxation and “feelings of social connection” and “that ASMR is a reliable and physiologically-rooted experience that may have therapeutic benefits for mental and physical health.”
Of course, if you don’t get brain tingles listening to an Indian barber giving a head massage, well, you’re going to have to find different ways to relax, because ASMR only relaxes people who actually experience the phenomenon.