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Have you ever had an experience that makes you ooh and ah and feel tingly all over? Millions of people have, so many that a new description for this feeling has found its way into the language, braingasm, or brain orgasm, also known as brain shivers.

When future archaeologists sift through the relics of our civilization 10,000 years now, probably the most puzzling thing about us will be our obsession with kitty videos.

Certain sights, sounds, and smells, and to a lesser extent, tastes and smells, cause us to go ooh and ah and feel tingly all over. Now known as brain orgasm, braingasm, brain shivers, or auto-sensory Meridian response, this experience has captured the attention of consumers of Internet videos and is beginning to generate scientific inquiries.

What Is Auto-Sensory Meridian Response?

The condition of feeling oohs and ahs and "tinglies" has become a meme, auto-sensory Meridian response.

For lack of a better definition, this neurological condition is a state of feeling nice. Typically, it is triggered by exposure to non-threatening, repetitive visual stimuli that could be described with another term, optimal heterophily. The sensory input that triggers this feel-good state is familiar enough to be comfortable, but just different enough to be unexpected. 

What Are Some Examples of Auto-Sensory Meridian Response?

The triggers for the tinglies are different in different people. For some people, often people who own cats, an inexplicable spasm of feeling good occurs after viewing a kitty video, taken of someone else's cat. Other people are lulled into a state of bliss by watching travel documentaries, cooking shows, or the Home Shopping Network, as long as no actual travel, cooking, or purchases are involved. 

In one popular YouTube video posted by GentleWhispering (and linked below), an interior decorator introducing herself as Maria spends 20 minutes speaking in a sweet, gentle, soft voice explaining how to fold towels. On the date this article was written, this video about folding towels had received 358,195 hits, more than videos on global warming, radiation from Fukushima, the evils of Monsanto, or mind control by the Bilderbergs.

Of course, mass experiences of auto-sensory Meridian response really aren't all that new. In the USA, in the 1990's, tens of millions of people became weekly devotees of a television "show about nothing," called Seinfeld. Millions more are fans of a PBS series on how to do landscape painting by late television host Bob Ross, watching, rewatching, and rewatching again all of 400 episodes of The Joy of Painting. (The writer of this article is one of the millions hooked on the painting show.)

What Does "Auto-Sensory" Mean? And What's a Meridian?

The auto-sensory Meridian response, sometimes abbreviated ASMR, is "auto-sensory" in that the strength of the pleasure response can't be explained in terms of observable stimulation. There is no immediately obvious, objective reason watching the same episode of a landscape painting course should cause repeated experience of bliss.

The ASMR occurs on a Meridian in the sense that the "tinglies" aren't felt all over the body so much as they tend to be felt up and down the body. And the experience is a response in that it does not occur in response, usually, to a purely imaginary experience, although it is possible to get oohs and ahs and tingles in response to a remembered experience.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Bougea AM, Spandideas N, Alexopoulos EC, Thomaides T, Chrousos GP, Darviri C. Effect of the emotional freedom technique on perceived stress, quality of life, and cortisol salivary levels in tension-type headache sufferers: a randomized controlled trial. Explore (NY). 2013 Mar-Apr
  • 9(2):91-9. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2012.12.005. PMID: 23452711.
  • O'Connell, M. The Soft Bulletins. Slate.com. Accessed 5 July 2013
  • Photo courtesy of Sabine Mondestin by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/sabinemondestin/8461762213/
  • Photo courtesy of Rita M. by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/fotorita/2232969060/

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