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What is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response & What are its Triggers?|Do All People Experience ASMR

You must have heard the term ASMR being used a lot these days. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it refers to a kind of tingling sensation that we all feel at the back of the head and along the length of the spine in response to some stimuli. Many people feel this phenomenon throughout the body. Different audio and visual triggers, including fingernail tapping, whispering, or even watching a brush painting a surface, can lead to this tingling sensation. Apart from making you feel good, ASMR is believed to help people deal with feelings of anxiety. Here’s everything you need to know about ASMR.

What is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response?

What is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)?

Autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, is a term used to refer to the pleasurable tingling sensation that many people experience in response to certain activities or sounds, or even videos. In recent years, ASMR has become a viral internet phenomenon, and you will find that websites like Reddit and YouTube have millions of Autonomous sensory meridian response videos posted. These websites also have thousands of testimonials from people who have appreciated these videos and talked about the relaxing and static-like sensation they get from watching Autonomous sensory meridian response videos, which may include the sound of crumpling paper, water falling, or even whispering. (1,2,3,4)

It is said that this sensation typically begins in the crown of the head, travels through the length of the spine, and spreads throughout the body. Autonomous sensory meridian response has a sensation that was first mentioned online in 2007 on a forum at SteadyHealth.com. It was termed Autonomous sensory meridian response in 2010 by a Facebook user, and since then, there has been no stopping this internet trend. However, this phenomenon has been backed by very little scientific evidence since then. Recently, though, researchers from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom carried out a study to look at whether science can confirm the anecdotal evidence of the relaxing benefits that are associated with Autonomous sensory meridian response. (1)

Apart from making a person feel good, ASMR is also believed to have the potential to help one deal with feelings of anxiety.

What Does the Research on Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) Say?

The Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) phenomenon is quite recent, and therefore, experts have only started to look at the potential benefits of ASMR. Some of the existing evidence is primarily based on the self-reporting of people who watch Autonomous sensory meridian response videos. Many studies have also found positive results, though all researchers and study authors agree that there is a need for more in-depth research on this subject.

The exact benefits of Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) also depend on your individual receptivity and sensitivity. According to a study from 2015, many people found that experiencing ASMR helps reduce negative mood symptoms, including stress and depression. It also helps relieve chronic pain in some people. (2)

Another study from 2018 showed evidence that suggested that watching Autonomous sensory meridian response videos can help slow down the heart rate, causing the body to reach a state of calm and relaxation. The research authors noted that several viewers reported feeling a heightened sense of connection with others, which is believed to have a positive effect on their overall well-being as well. (1)

Further research from 2018 also supported these benefits, also noting that other viewers found ASMR videos benefited them in the following: (5)

  • Get better sleep
  • Experience reduced pain and anxiety
  • Unwind and relax
  • Feel better when upset or sick
  • Feel cared for and comforted

Watching Autonomous sensory meridian response videos can also serve as a big distraction from feeling anxious and, at the same time, promote feelings of increased calm and relaxation.

However, researchers still do not know exactly why or how Autonomous sensory meridian response benefits some people. However, as long as it does not cause you any harm and produces a sense of well-being and calm, it is deemed to be a beneficial form of therapy.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) Triggers

People often find that they feel a positive tingling sensation when they indulge in activities like stroking a cat, hearing someone whisper into their ear, or even when getting a haircut. There are many videos available online that attempt to recreate these triggers. However, it is not necessary that every trigger will work for everyone. Even for those who experienced Autonomous sensory meridian response, not all videos they watch online can trigger these sensations. At the same time, it is important to note that not every trigger is capable of producing the same response. This is why it might take some trial and error before you are able to find the right ASMR triggers that work for you, helping relieve anxiety and promote relaxation. (6)

Here are some ASMR triggers that are known to be more useful in calming anxiety than others.

1. Visual Triggers

You will find that many Autonomous sensory meridian response videos combine some visual and audio triggers. There are some videos that only have visual triggers without any audio. Some of the visual triggers that have been found to be useful in reducing anxiety are as follows:

  • Folding Laundry: Some people find the task of folding laundry to be very calming as it reminds them of their childhood.
  • Stroking a Pet: Watching a happy pet getting cuddles, accompanied by the sound of purring, is known to help people feel comforted and relaxed.
  • Brush Strokes: This can be the movement of a brush when someone paints or even a makeup brush when someone strokes their face or a surface. Many ASMRtists make use of brushes on the camera lens to make it appear like it is brushing against your face.
  • Small Movements: Small movements may include face touching, slow hand gestures, or writing.
  • Brushing Hair: Many people feel calm when someone combs, strokes, or plays with their hair. Videos showing hair brushing are said to stimulate the same sense of calmness and comfort for many people.
  • Mixing of Paint: Many people find it relaxing and satisfying to watch colors being blended.
  • Ironing of Clothes: There is a strange sort of peace that descends upon you when you iron clothes. Videos showing the ironing of clothes can be relaxing for many people.

2. Audio Triggers

Many people find videos of certain types of sounds to be helpful in feeling calm and less anxious. These may include:

  • Videos of Whispering: In such types of videos, the ASMRtist slowly whispers into the camera certain phrases or words that you can’t really make out, but the act of whispering helps the viewers feel calm. Some people also perform another ASMR trigger, such as using a paintbrush or making small movements while whispering.
  • Videos of Tapping Sounds: You may hear the sound of fingertips or fingernails tapping against various surfaces like a glass bottle, desk, or a candle. Some videos may also show the sound of tapping of keyboard keys.
  • Videos of Crisp Sounds: This includes sounds that paper crumpling, leaves crunching, or crinkling of foil makes.
  • Videos of Turning The Page: You may like to hear the smooth sound that the pages of glossy magazines make when they are turned. Some people also like the paper sounds of a book or textbook pages being turned.
  • Writing: The sound of a pen or pencil scratching against paper is relaxing for many people, though many may find this to be irritating.

Do All People Experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)?

The answer to this question is no. Not everyone experiences calming and positive sensations related to ASMR. Research from 2017 shows that this is likely to be related to the Big Five personality traits. (7) People who are more like to experience the sensations of ASMR tend to score low on the measures of conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion, and they also score higher on measures of neuroticism and openness to experience.

Meanwhile, people who do not experience ASMR may say that the same videos actually make them feel creeped out or irritated, confused, bored, or unsettled. Some people who do experience Autonomous sensory meridian response may also find that certain visual or audio triggers might not have the intended effect, instead causing them to feel annoyed or bored.

Some people also say that certain Autonomous sensory meridian response triggers do help calm their anxiety, but other triggers may actually boost the symptoms of anxiety further.

It is believed that the ASMR experience is somewhat related to misophonia. Misophonia is another phenomenon in which people have a hatred for certain sounds, and they experience extreme negative reactions to these sounds. (8,9,10) These sounds typically differ from person to person, but there are some common triggers of misophonia that include repetitive sounds like:

These sounds make a person with misophonia feel stressed, panicky, anxious, and even angry. In fact, an ASMR video that includes the sound of breathing or tapping may provoke these feelings instead of helping a person feel relaxed and calm.


There is still a lot more to be learned about the phenomenon of Autonomous sensory meridian response, and research is going on to find out how and why ASMR works. What is clear, though, is that Autonomous sensory meridian response does appear to help some people. If you don’t experience ASMR, you will find that watching such trigger videos does not make you feel anything except for boredom or sometimes unease. However, these videos can still help you distract yourself from any anxious thoughts and focus on something else.

So regardless of all that remains unknown about Autonomous sensory meridian response, it is a low-risk alternate and helpful approach to dealing with anxiety and other related issues.


  1. Poerio, G.L., Blakey, E., Hostler, T.J. and Veltri, T., 2018. More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PloS one, 13(6), p.e0196645.
  2. Barratt, E.L. and Davis, N.J., 2015. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ, 3, p.e851.
  3. Fredborg, B., Clark, J. and Smith, S.D., 2017. An examination of personality traits associated with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Frontiers in psychology, 8, p.247.
  4. Barratt, E.L., Spence, C. and Davis, N.J., 2017. Sensory determinants of the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR): understanding the triggers. PeerJ, 5, p.e3846.
  5. Kovacevich, A. and Huron, D., 2019. Two studies of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR): The relationship between ASMR and music-induced frisson. Empirical musicology review, 13(1-2), pp.39-63.
  6. Smith, S.D., Fredborg, B.K. and Kornelsen, J., 2020. Functional connectivity associated with five different categories of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) triggers. Consciousness and Cognition, 85, p.103021.
  7. Fredborg, B., Clark, J. and Smith, S.D., 2017. An examination of personality traits associated with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Frontiers in psychology, 8, p.247.
  8. Cavanna, A.E. and Seri, S., 2015. Misophonia: current perspectives. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, p.2117.
  9. Kumar, S., Tansley-Hancock, O., Sedley, W., Winston, J.S., Callaghan, M.F., Allen, M., Cope, T.E., Gander, P.E., Bamiou, D.E. and Griffiths, T.D., 2017. The brain basis for misophonia. Current Biology, 27(4), pp.527-533.
  10. Edelstein, M., Brang, D., Rouw, R. and Ramachandran, V.S., 2013. Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, p.296.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 23, 2022

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