ASMR

ASMR

Dr Craig Richard Ph.D.

 

 

Giving the world tingles is the new art form ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is an audio and visual phenomenon that has gained popularity through YouTube, where thousands of artists continue to post their relaxation videos.

 

What is ASMR

 

ASMR is a term coined in by cyber security professional Jennifer Allen, who in 2010 identified common sensations she and other Facebookers experienced. The sensations included tingles from the head to the body and mild euphoria, prompted by soothing, repetitive sounds and actions.

Although similar to hypnosis ASMR is so called because it doesn’t just relax its subjects, it provokes peaking waves of pleasure.

 

How does ASMR work

 

One man who has studied the phenomenon is Dr Craig Richard, Ph.D. in Physiology and Cell Biology and founder of the ASMR University (an online resource sharing centre).

While Dr Richard admits more research is needed to discover the cause of ASMR, he hypothesises that it mimics interpersonal bonding – such as that of a parent and child – and causes similar feelings of comfort.

He said: “ASMR and bonding behaviours share similar triggers like gentle touches and soft voices between individuals that trust each other, and also have similar responses like feeling comforted, feeling relaxed, and feeling secure. 

“Some of the basic biology of bonding is well established and this involves specific behaviours, which stimulate the release of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These bonding behaviours and molecules may provide a good explanation for most of the triggers and responses associated with ASMR.”

Dr Richard summarised that endorphins were likely to be the source of ASMR ‘tingles’; dopamine the source of ASMR’s moreish nature; oxytocin for the reduction of stress and serotonin for the elevation in mood incurred by ASMR.

 

Does ASMR work for everyone

 

Dr Richard suggested the key to understanding ASMR lay in ASMR insusceptibility and cited a 2016 study by Smith, Fredborga and Kornelsen.

He said: “This study demonstrated that people who experience ASMR may have different neuronal connections in their brains.”

The study compared the default mode network (daydreaming part of the brain) of 11 individuals with ASMR to that of 11 matched controls. The results indicated DMN of individuals with ASMR showed ‘significantly less functional connectivity’ than that of the controls, but also increased ‘blending of multiple resting-state networks’.

These network conditions seem to make some people genetically more likely to experience the phenomenon than others.

However, Dr Richard noted that even those who easily experienced ASMR could build a tolerance to its triggers (such as whispering) when faced with repeated exposure.

He said: “ASMR is probably mediated by neurotransmitters or neurohormones because tolerance is a typical response to repeated stimulation of a receptor.

“Receptors are very good at becoming less sensitive over time in response to the same stimulus, this is especially true for endorphin receptors. This is why people who repeatedly use morphine or oxycodone (which bind to endorphin receptors) need more drug to get the same response over time.”

Dr Richard said that if ASMR were confirmed to trigger endorphins it would explain ASMR tolerance.

 

Can ASMR help treat illness

 

Aside from recreation, fans have started to debate whether ASMR might also help lessen the experience of pain and illness.

Dr Richard said: “There are many anecdotal reports on the internet of people sharing how ASMR has been helpful for their insomnia, anxiety, and/or depression.”

He noted the 2015 publication about ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response: A flow-like Mental State – which suggested ASMR might be helpful to individuals suffering from depression or chronic pain.

The doctor explained: “This data set showed that watching ASMR videos boosted the mood of 80% of the participants, and those at high risk for depression had an even greater boost to their mood.”

However, Dr Richard was quick to explain that many more studies must be completed before any real conclusion could be met. He also cautioned that ASMR was no substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment.

He said: My biggest concern is that people may use ASMR to self-treat serious medical issues rather than seeking medical attention. I strongly recommend that individuals talk to a clinician if they think they are suffering from insomnia, depression, anxiety or other serious conditions – and to talk with the clinician about the potential use of ASMR for their condition.”

 

ASMR as Art

 

While its medical value remains unproven ASMR has been embraced – by many- as art. ASMR videos across YouTube feature everything from make-up tutorials, to car maintenance, massage, and role –play; with artists investing hundreds in 3D sound equipment to enrich the experience.

Dr Richard listed some of his favourite ASMR artists as WhispersRed, Tony Bomboni, Deep Ocean of Sounds, SoftlyGaloshes, SoftAnna, Heather Feather, GentleWhispering, JellyBean Green, SensorAdi, Dana ASMR and theASMRnerd.

Reflecting on the vast range of ASMR videos available, Dr Richard offered ASMR artists advice.

He said: “Artists should be genuine and not expect everyone to love the type of ASMR they create. ASMR is a personal and specific experience triggered by many different stimuli.”

To help gain further insight into ASMR, the doctor encouraged readers to go to the ASMR University and take part in its survey.

He concluded: The wider goal of the website is to help to encourage others to further spread the awareness of ASMR and/or to get involved with research to help understand it better.”

A Stitch Online

SIAS

Designer Iona Barker is known to many as the face of Say it ain’t Sew, Scotland’s free sewing classes. Hoping to expand this network Barker has launched a website to promote the craft’s physical and mental benefits.

She said: “Sewing can be therapeutic; one of the reasons I took it up was to forget my own worries.

“Before I started Say it Ain’t Sew I had moved up from London, after been made redundant from my dream job; so I was having a really crap time. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I wanted to do something to help myself, and others in the same situation.

“I did some research into Glasgow’s sewing movement and found that while there was a lot of ‘stitch -and -bitch’ groups there wasn’t any free classes. So I formed Say it Ain’t Sew and made admission free, so that anyone could turn up and get creative.”

Say it Ain’t Sew is a beginners’ class, where equipment and fabric is provided for students. Barker founded the class in 2010, at the Hillhead Book Club. Then after years of successful tutorials, she established a second class, in Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. Now the two run weekly (on Monday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Edinburgh and on Tuesday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Glasgow).

The classes’ success, Barker said, comes from student’s satisfaction in their finished projects.

She explained: “Making fun things for family and friends gives people a great sense of achievement. The distraction also helps people that suffer from mental ill health, such as anxiety.”

Another way the class helps those struggling with mental health is through philanthropy.

Barker said: “Every year Say it Ain’t Sew does an event for charity, last year it was a 22 hour stitchathon for SAMH (Scotland’s mental health charity). The stitchathon raised about a grand-and-a-half, and made two huge wall hangings.”

She continued: “This year’s stitchathon will be for Scottish Autism. We are going to create an interactive sensory floor map, with electronic components sewn in, which light up.”

This and other Say it Ain’t Sew projects will soon be documented on the movement’s website.

Barker said: “Say it Ain’t Sew is on a lot of social media channels, but they can be limited when it comes to hosting static information; for instance a lot of people ask me the same questions every day, so the website will answer frequently asked questions.”

She added: “The website will also act as a resource for those not on social media.”

It will do this via text and multimedia content, with Barker’s YouTube sewing videos taking pride of place.

She said: “The YouTube Say It Ain’t Sew tutorials are a new addition to the movement. They came as a result of a brainstorm in taxi, between myself and a film-maker called Grant Lynch.

“Grant wanted to produce edgy cooking shows; and I told him that I wanted to create something similar, but covering sewing instead of cooking.

“So we swapped details, discussed it again, and met to shoot the initial videos. Grant has since moved to Canada, but I am now working with a new filmmaker, Sean Gill, on the latest tutorials. As ever, the videos will be fun, short and sweet.”

As well as showcasing design innovations, the tutorials will answer viewer’s sewing queries.

Barker said: “We get a lot of requests from people who want to alter and repair their clothes. For instance, a lot of people manage to rip the crotch of their jeans when lunging, so I am making a tutorial to address this problem!”

Barker’s repair experience comes as part of her illustrious wardrobe career. Recently she worked as part of Glasgow SEE Hydro’s costume relief; prepping touring stars’ wardrobes before they hit the stage.

She said: “The most exciting project that I worked on at the Hydro was Beyoncé’s Mrs Cater tour.

“The show was crazy, it was so much fun, but very stressful.”

Talking of her time at the Hydro, Barker said: “I loved it, but it was very fast paced – for instance sometimes you would only have 30 seconds to repair things – after a while I was tired.”

She added: “I gave up working in Hydro wardrobe last December, after a very busy couple of months. I felt as if I had hit my peak in costume work, and I wanted focus on helping other people get to that level.”

Now Barker encourages anyone seeking sewing advice to contact her via the website.

She concluded: “I hope the website speaks to people who are stressed or anxious and looking for alternative relaxation; sewing really can meet that need.”