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The whisperers of the Internet: ASMR videos between myth and actual benefits

In the Youtube video galaxy a new star has been born for some time: the one of ASMR videos. You can't say that the format is not strange, but there are those who are ready to swear that these videos can improve the quality of life. Now a study has tried to verify that. Whispers, ticking, jingling, face brushes running on the microphone or simulated haircuts. And 1.4 million people, just to mention the numbers of the Gently Whispering channel, one of the most followed ASMR channels, who access Youtube just to watch (and especially listen to) this very particular video format.

It's likely that you've already heard about it, but if not, this is the perfect opportunity to learn more about it. Especially because, for the first time, it seems that the benefits of ASMR videos have been scientifically proven. (Spoiler alert: in addition to the pleasant tingling there is more).

What are ASMR videos?

First of all: "ASMR?!" It stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and refers to the pleasant feeling that users associate with this type of digital content. The physical reaction also changes significantly from individual to individual and people reportedly experience a pleasant feeling of tingling in the scalp, which can spread to the shoulders and back, and usually be accompanied by a feeling of relaxation and generalised well-being. The intensity of the response can also be very strong, so much so that some have used the word "braingasm", literally "brain orgasm" to express the feeling.
If the enthusiastic stories and the steady growth in the spread of these videos were not enough to bear witness to the reality of the benefits, now a study by the University of Sheffield has laid the foundation for the "legitimacy" of ASMR.

The study of the University of Sheffield

The question that the researchers started from is precisely this: "Can the tingling sensation generated by these particular sounds confer additional benefits in addition to the pleasure that derives from it? To investigate the issue, never studied before, the researchers conducted a two-part study. In the first phase of the research more than 1000 people were involved, who were subjected to videos with ASMR elements and others who were lacking them. Subsequently, the participants reported through an online questionnaire the sensations generated by watching the videos and their emotional response. In addition, the participants to whom ASMR videos had been submitted answered further questions related to the moments of the video that had triggered the answer.

The first results showed that the subjects in which the ASMR response was most frequently triggered were also those who reported higher levels of excitement and a more intense feeling of calm, combined with lower levels of stress and feelings of sadness.

There are also many who say that they have managed to counteract problems such as anxiety, panic attacks and, more recently, insomnia, thanks to ASMR videos.

The second part of the study was held in the laboratory with a sample of 110 people among those who had perceived the response associated with the ASMR videos and those who instead had not drawn any feeling of pleasure. Heart rate and galvanic response of the skin (indicator of emotional excitement) of the participants were measured under standard conditions, before proceeding as in the first phase with the viewing of ASMR video and not ASMR and subsequent questionnaire. After viewing, the same body indicators were recorded, to make a comparison with the measurements in standard situations.

From what emerged from the study, it seems that some people are luckier than others: participants who already in the first phase had experienced the typical pleasant feeling reported a much lower heart rate, comparable to that recorded in the meditation sessions, compared to those who had not perceived anything like it, and higher levels in the galvanic response of the skin, indicating a more intense emotional response.

Ultimately, there are people who derive real psychological and emotional benefits from watching these videos, the same ones who experience the autonomous response of the sensory meridian, or the pleasant tingling sensation that made the phenomenon so popular online.

L’ASMR oltreYoutube

Although ASMR is a phenomenon born digitally and that has in the net its land of choice, centers are beginning to be born that promise to offer a similar experience in real life. This is the case with Whisperlodge, a strange hybrid of spa and theatre performance that comes to life in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and offers "special individual and group treatments designed to relax the body and mind, broaden self-awareness and stimulate the senses". If someone really can relax with a stranger whispering in his ears.

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