The truth behind ASMR and the craze for videos causing ‘head orgasms’

Many people experience “ASMR”, a relaxing sensation often triggered by gentle, whispering videos. We are finally working out what it is and that it can be good for you


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A FEW years ago, I sat down in my home office and clicked through to a YouTube video. In it, a woman slowly folded towels on a table, while talking in a gentle whisper. Almost immediately, a warm, fuzzy tingle started around the nape of my neck, spreading across my shoulders and back. Within a minute, I was in a state of utter relaxation. The sensation lasted long after I stopped watching.

I have experienced this calming tingle since I was a child, when my mother would stroke my back at bedtime. But I never mentioned it – it just seemed weird.

Then a few years ago, I read an article about an internet subculture devoted to the “brain tingles” elicited by videos of people folding towels or The Joy of Painting – a TV show in which the host Bob Ross would produce an oil painting and quietly explain how he did it. Just reading the descriptions of these videos was enough to set off the sensation.

Watching someone fold towels may seem tedious, but that clip has had more than 1,900,000 views. Clearly, I’m not alone. That got me wondering what was happening in my brain to elicit these feelings. Do they serve a purpose? And how many other people share my ability to easily find a state of blissful relaxation?

The phenomenon first came to people’s attention in 2007, in an online forum thread titled “weird sensation feels good”. Many names were suggested, notably “attention-induced head orgasm” – a misnomer because the feeling is not as sudden or short-lived as an orgasm, and is distinct from sexual …

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