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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Slime. Mukbangs. Cardi B quietly discussing the trials of motherhood while gently petting a fur rug and playing with a children’s toy. I’m sat down, headphones in, sprawled on my bed, enveloped in a trance-like state of relaxation, feeling an odd yet strangely pleasant chills-like sensation creeping up my spine. People who watch ASMR, whether it’s their first or thousandth time, often find themselves falling into one of three categories: they either love it, hate it, or are intensely confused by it. And understandably so.


#CardiB explores her quieter side in a friendly round of ASMR.

♬ original sound – W Magazine

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, refers to the tingling sensation in the scalp, back, or upper spine that some individuals experience in response to specific auditory or visual stimuli. It originated in the mid-2000s when individuals began sharing their experiences in online forums, describing tingling sensations caused by triggers like tapping sounds, button presses, or the crinkling of paper. This sensation was termed “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,” or for short, ASMR. ASMR content eventually found its way onto platforms like YouTube, where it has gained traction to grow a community of content creators and individuals seeking relaxation, stress relief, and better sleep.

While the scientific study of ASMR didn’t fully emerge until the late 2000s, several research studies have delved into its psychological, neurological, and physiological effects, shedding light on why it’s so satisfying.

One reason is its ability to induce a deep sense of relaxation. One study has shown that individuals experiencing ASMR report an increased sense of emotional well-being and positivity after watching ASMR videos. Additionally, physiological responses, such as a reduction in heart rate, have been observed, suggesting a calming effect on the body. (Poerio, G.L. et al. “More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology.” PLoS One, June 2018.)

ASMR has also been linked to mindfulness. Another study indicates that individuals who experience ASMR sensations tend to exhibit higher levels of mindfulness, making them more attuned to their bodily sensations and surroundings. This heightened mindfulness may contribute to their sensitivity to ASMR triggers and their ability to get a feeling of satisfaction from them. (Fredborg, B.K. “Mindfulness and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).” PeerJ, August 2018.)

The reason could also be neurological differences. A study examining brain activity revealed differences in brain activity patterns between individuals who experience ASMR and those who don’t. This study used fMRI imaging to examine the default mode network (DMN) – the network of brain regions active when an individual is at rest and not engaged in specific tasks. They found alterations in connectivity and activity in ASMR individuals, suggesting potential neurological differences associated with the experience of ASMR. (Smith, S.D. “An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).” Social Neuroscience, August 2017.)

These findings suggest that ASMR triggers a unique combination of emotional, physiological, and neurological responses that make it feel satisfying. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms triggering ASMR, it’s still incredibly fun to watch – even if you don’t experience the sensations! So, if you haven’t yet experienced the oddly mesmerizing video of Cardi B whispering about motherhood while gently stroking a rug, you’re truly missing out!

Annie is a first-year student at UCLA from Connecticut majoring in Political Science and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. In her free time she loves dancing, working out, and baking.