Edit: Damn spellchecker… The title is meant to be “brain orgasms“, not organisms. Fixed…
The internet is a strange place in that sometimes, out of the blue, I read or watch something that resonates deeply in my mind. This was one of those times and it was totally unexpected.
A couple of days ago I was browsing around randomly, something I have a bad habit of doing when I’m tired and find myself sitting in front of my computer. It’s always those times when I know I should go sleep, but instead I watch random shit on YouTube. So I found myself watching this irreverent Cracked video making fun of popular videos.
One of the things they made fun of that I’d never heard of is called ASMR. (Autonomous sensory meridian response) They’re videos that, for some people, trigger an odd response in the brain, described as a pleasurable tingling sensation. Generally it’s a video of a girl whispering into a microphone. Like this one.
The Cracked team and many commenters proceeded to mock those videos, assuming that it must be something sexual, like some sort of bizarre fetish. The thing is, as silly as those videos are, I recognized the description of the sensation immediately because it’s something I used to experience frequently as a child. I used to call it “a nice headache” but of course nobody ever knew what I as talking about.
One of my favourite sceptical writers has even written about ASMR, although it looks like medical science doesn’t know what the phenomenon is yet. I’m not going anywhere with this post… just find it interesting that I could’ve stumbled onto this after all these years. My last memory of experiencing it that stands out was from when I was around 12 years old, although there may have been other times since then that weren’t so memorable and I have forgotten, but I don’t feel any inclination to watch more than a few seconds of any of those videos. They’re kind of creepy really. I’m not sure if I want to try triggering that sensation anyway. It would feel artificial and wrong somehow. My memories of the sensation always involve feeling a sense of intimacy, more like appreciation with someone who said or did something nice for me, but I can assure anybody reading this that the feeling of ASMR is absolutely not sexual in any way whatsoever. It’s difficult to describe, but since others’ descriptions are similar to mine I’ll go with them… It’s a tingling sensation, a feeling of pleasure, that seems to be directly in the brain. Hence my oxymoron of a name for it as a child: a nice headache.
Update: I tried watching more than a few seconds of some of those videos, and they really don’t do anything for me. While I can remember the tingling sensation in my head from my frequent experiences as a child, as described by those who experience ASMR, whatever triggers it for those people into it online does not work for me. Frankly, I find the whispering thing annoying. Shame, I saw one girl even made a rebuttal video, explaining how it really isn’t a sexual thing. I suspect that many people who have not experienced the sensation but who have discovered the YouTube ASMR videos will never believe her. Yet she is telling the truth.