Are you one of the millions of people that have sought out AMSR videos or downloads on the internet – or maybe you’ve created a video yourself? For those as yet unfamiliar with this growing trend, this is what it is all about.
The first descriptions of what we call AMSR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) appeared in about 2007, although the sensations and descriptions of them are, of course, nothing new. Basically, they are describing sensory feelings that some people experience in response to set triggers. The feelings often start with a tingling in the scalp, spreading down to the rest of the body through the spine and limbs and often associated with feeling very relaxed and calm.
Some of the commonest stimuli that trigger AMSR include:
· People whispering – it may not matter what is being said and could even be in a foreign language, but it is usually soft, breathy or sibilant in nature.
· Tapping or scratching sounds – the scraping of combs, rustling of paper or plastic wrapping, or tapping of fingernails have all been used to create the effect.
· Having your hair brushed or cut.
· Rhythmic movements of hands or objects.
· Close personal attention – such as spa treatments, getting shoes fitted, massages, or even medical or dental examinations can trigger AMSR sensations. The person inducing the relaxation in these situations is often a real or simulated expert, giving one-on-one attention, with a trustworthy disposition and a non-threatening nature.
· Watching or listening to somebody preparing or eating certain types of food.
Often these stimuli hark back to childhood experiences, but it is possible that AMSR experiences have served some evolutionary function. The term ‘AMSR’ was coined in 2010 by Jenn Allen who set up the website amsr-research.org. and over the past ten years a number of groups and individuals have set up internet video-sharing channels which have attracted not only a huge audience of ‘AMSRtists’ but also a number of academic researchers, with the first peer-reviewed study appearing in 2015.
The research indicated that people who were depressed reported a stronger boost from watching AMSR videos than those who were not. It has been found that people experiencing AMSR have reduced heart rate and increased skin conductance indicating heightened emotional arousal. Anecdotally, people report being better able to cope with insomnia, depression, anxiety, PTSD and chronic pain. More research needs to be done: it is not known to what degree people experience AMSR; whether the phenomenon is binary or on a spectrum; and how clinically or therapeutically useful it is.
It would seem that ASMR and hypnosis have many similarities. Both can involve eye fixation, soft and almost monotonous vocal tones, methodical sounds, significant rapport, and sometimes rhythmic movements of hands or objects (the old pendulum cliché). The outcome for both involves being relaxed, although hypnosis is a deeper state of relaxation. One thing that does not enhance AMSR (nor hypnosis in my experience) is background music!
So take a break from the usual ‘relaxation’ tapes and downloads – search out AMSR videos on YouTube (1.5 million results) instead. One video of a woman demonstrating how to fold towels as has 770,000 views in two years. Find out what gives you the brain tingles!