Ffffffffff. Suruuu. Suruuu. Slurp… Already, you can imagine a famous Youtuber filming himself/herself eating a bowl of ramen deliciously straight from the pot. The obsession with food videos is not a new thing as cooking shows have existed for so long, but this twentieth-first addiction with just looking at other people making sounds has taken over the world. Like most phenomenons, the reason behind this trend can be explained by science.
But this sensation is not limited to ramen. There are tons of ASMR videos on the internet ranging from satisfying slime sounds to soap cutting. For those who may not know, ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response and the term started in 2010 by Jennifer Allen who works in cybersecurity. (1) It can be defined as a “calming, pleasurable feeling often accompanied by a tingling sensation” and characterized as a big business for relaxation especially on the internet. (2) This mysterious trend is now gaining attention from baffled scientists. Why are millions of people willing to hear crunching sounds? Especially, if you are not doing the eating.
Through surveying thousands of people, neuroscientists found that ASMR can relieve individual’s symptoms of stress and insomnia. Two psychology researchers at Swansea University in Wales reported that 475 people experienced “the tingles” and felt better after watching those videos, decreasing symptoms from chronic pain and depression. Furthermore, a smaller study done by psychology professor Stephen Smit and two colleagues at the University of Winnipeg discovered that the brains of who experienced ASMR were different from the default mode network that typically shows certain areas of the brain “lighting up”. (3) In contrast to the control subjects, the test subjects revealed that areas related to a visual network were involved. Smith reports, “It does make intuitive sense that a condition associated with atypical sensory association and atypical emotional association would have different wiring in the brain.”
There are also numerous evidence for the potential benefit of ASMR for stress disorders, sleep disorders, mood disorders, and other emerging fields. In a published research done by Janik McErlean, 41% of the participants indicated that they watch ASMR videos to help them fall asleep, corroborating with a previous study done by Barratt in 2015 where 82% of the participants also accounted that ASMR videos help them fall asleep. (4) Likewise, in another research study, ASMR participants reported the highest levels of excitement and calmness but also the lowest levels of sadness and stress, proving that people who experience ASMR benefit emotionally and physiologically. (5)
Although there have been research about this topic, there is still more to be explored. Dr. Emma Blakey and her graduate students at the University of Sheffield, Giulia Poerio, Tom Hostler and Theresa Veltri, are currently working on a study to prove that ASMR is a worthy topic of scientific research. They seek to discover if ASMR also produces consistent physiological measures like differences in heart rate and breathing rate. For them, this process has brought new insights about their own team as Emma, Giulia and Tom experience ASMR, but Theresa does not. They explain, “It adds to the diversity of our research group and the questioning of our approach from a non-ASMR perspective.” (6)
References and Footnotes