This morning, Time’s Newsfeed Editor Jessica Roy wrote about her experiences having ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response – a strange and tingly sensation, she writes, that some people refer to as a brain orgasm.
Whispering is a primary trigger, but anything from the sound a pen makes when drawing on a piece of paper to rhythmic, monotonous speech can spark an episode. And it’s not just about sounds. Having someone focus specifically on you–such as when an optometrist performs an eye exam or when your hairdresser cuts your bangs–can also invoke the same feeling; the sensation of someone gently tracing lines on your back or stroking your hair can incite that familiar fizzle.
ASMR invokes different feelings in different people. An aspect, Roy says, that make it hard to describe the sensations or its catalysts to others.
Roy created a video for Time, where she – in a whisper – explains ASMR.
There isn’t much research surrounding ASMR, but that doesnt mean it isn’t real. In fact, a huge online community has formed, filled with those who experience ASMR. The community originated from one YouTube upload of a woman whispering.
The acts required to trigger an ASMR are admittedly intimate. The sensation is compared to an orgasm because it can feel similar, just centered at the top of the body instead of the bottom, so you’d be forgiven for confusing ASMRs for something sexual. But perhaps that’s another reason they are so difficult to decipher, especially if you don’t experience them yourself: ASMRs are intimate but not sexual, feel-good but not orgasmic, private but not secret.
In 2012, Rhodri Marsden wrote about his ASMR for The Independent, admitting that he enjoyed watching QVC because it made him feel “nice”, though he couldn’t explain why.
“I once saw a man talk for 10 minutes about the benefits of purchasing a pack of 10 blank video cassettes,” Marsden explains in his piece, “and it left my head gently buzzing in a way that’s hard to describe.”
“Maria spends almost 20 minutes demonstrating how to fold towels,” Marsden writes. “I absolutely adore it. I watch it all the time. My friends think I’m mad.”
This is that video: