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BrainKind Bulletin 006: Your brain on ASMR



Welcome to BrainKind Bulletin - your regular dose of neuroscience research.


The (big?) news: 

Scientists have uncovered the neural correlates underlying ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response).


What is ASMR?

ASMR is the sensation experienced by some people in response to specific sights and sounds such as whispering, tapping and slow hand movements. These relaxing ‘brain tingles’ are described as a warm, tingling and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body.

How did they measure it?

An fMRI-based (brain scanning) methodology was employed to examine the brain activation of ten participants (prescreened for ASMR-receptivity) as they watched ASMR videos and identified specific moments of relaxation and tingling.

What were the results?

Subjects who experienced ASMR showed significant activation in brain regions associated with both reward and emotional arousal. Brain activation during ASMR showed similarities to patterns previously observed with “frisson” or musical chills. Dopamine has been shown to be released in the brain reward areas during music chills and therefore may also be released during ASMR tingles.

The tingling sensation demonstrated highly significant activity in the somatosensory regions of the brain, related to the bodily touch, which may explain how ASMR translates auditory input to a full body experience.

Although the participants were watching recorded videos, these results indicate that ASMR videos activate the brain regions (mPFC) involved in actual social engagement. Oxytocin has been shown to bind to these brain areas and mediate relaxation responses which suggests a potential contribution of oxytocin to the relaxing sensations during ASMR.


What does this mean?

We know that the dopaminergic system modulates memory and learning and that the release of dopamine in the mPFC results in enhanced memory towards a stimulus. This suggests that content with dopamine releasing ASMR sound is likely to be encoded in memory more effectively than content without dopamine releasing ASMR sound. In other words, ASMR is BrainKind and should be on every content creator's agenda.

Your thoughts?

Any questions or opinions...

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Read the paper here:

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About Author

Aoife McGuinness
Aoife McGuinness

Neuroscience Consultant

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