Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (A.S.M.R.)
April 6, 2019 8:04 PM Subscribe
How A.S.M.R. Became a Sensation. "The brain-tingling feeling was a hard-to-describe psychological oddity. Until, suddenly, it was a YouTube phenomenon."
When Jennifer Allen watched videos of space, she sometimes felt this peculiar sensation: a tingling that spread through her scalp as the camera pulled back to show the marble of the earth. It came in a wave, like a warm effervescence, making its way down the length of her spine and leaving behind a sense of gratitude and wholeness. Allen loved this feeling, but she didn’t know what caused it. It was totally distinct from anything she’d experienced before. Every two years or so she’d take to Google. She tried searching things like “tingling head and spine” or “brain orgasm.” For nine years, the search didn’t turn up anything.
Then, around 2009, it did...
And so in February 2010, she sat down to brainstorm some ideas. Others had tried to describe the weird sensation, but spacey nicknames like “attention-induced head orgasm” had never quite caught on. Allen felt a debt to the feeling’s New Age fans, but she also saw the usefulness of more clinical language. When no existing term could meet both conditions, she made up a new one: Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or A.S.M.R. She started with “autonomous” because it was a feeling from within; “sensory” was self-explanatory. “Meridian” worked triple duty, suggesting peak but also orgasm and the energy pathways of traditional Chinese medicine. “Response” was just to say that it was not a constant state; it happened in reaction to a set of stimuli, like whispering, gum chewing and tapping.
“I wish I’d made it a little shorter,” Allen says. But at least it sounded better than “brain-gasm.”
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