Have you ever felt a sudden sense of calm when a friend whispers to you? Have you ever felt very put off or annoyed to the point of anger at the sound about the clicking of a pen, or someone chewing gum with pops and clicks of their teeth? What about bubble wrap? Writing on a chalkboard? Tapping on a wooden table? Why is it that so many varied sounds can have hit-and-miss effects on different people, from tranquility to sleep to rage? Recent trends in therapeutic forms of treating an acute sensitivity to soft sounds known as misophonia have brought on a popular means of relaxing the temper. However, the popularity of exploring the only recently named phenomenon is simply another facet of the physiological effects of an array of sounds that are known to the human brain in unique ways!
For starters, you may want ASMR fully fleshed-out. The acronym stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it has recently been subject to exponentially expanding popularity with recreational and therapeutic purposes, from needing relaxing sounds to fall asleep after a long day, or a calming role-play session to tide over chronic anxiety or panic attacks. For starters, you may want ASMR fully fleshed-out. The acronym stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it has recently been subject to exponentially expanding popularity with recreational and therapeutic purposes, from needing relaxing sounds to fall asleep after a long day, or a calming role-play session to tide over chronic anxiety or panic attacks. Millions of videos and electronic resources, such as the ASMR community’s own Ephemeral Rift, appeal to a wide variety of tastes and fancies for relaxation. Funny enough, this effect is an elusive, yet extremely pleasant, soft tingly feeling experienced in the back of the head and neck, which is observed to be produced by a prolonged and tranquil exposure to calming sounds that the individual takes pleasure in listening to. The feeling is just as arduous to describe as it is elusive to conjure on-demand: the main proponents of ASMR tend to be people that experience it regularly, even unintentionally, such as going through a carwash or typing up reports at work.
In a study conducted of 245 men and 222 women with 8 individuals listing as non-binary gender, 98% of the participants in the original questionnaire agreed that ASMR was a good opportunity to relax. In addition, 63% reported the sensation to originate primarily in the back of the head, while 50% additionally report observations of the tingling feeling spreading to the spine and back with a prolonged “session”, if they were intentionally trying to expose themselves to a relaxing environment. 70% responded that ASMR therapy actively lifts their mood and helps with their depression, whereas only 30% stated the intense tingling feeling was vital to relax, which means that even without the intense ASMR-tingly-feeling, the neurological effect of these sounds had a concurrent effect on the stress levels of the test population.
Misophonia, in a very similar slant, is a disorder that leaves individuals unable to concentrate, or even stay calm, in the presence of certain soft or persistent sounds that drive them quite literally crazy in an instant. It is described as an over-acute response to sounds that should otherwise produce no noteworthy emotional response, such as pen clicking or chewing, in a similar way the sounds of typing or whispering in Russian can make someone completely at ease. The importance of newer academic intentions behind ASMR and misophonia studies is that they could possibly be linked in their levels of synaesthesia, which is the neurological phenomenon of having a physiological connection and predisposition toward certain sounds that should otherwise not produce this response organically. In the previously mentioned study, the levels of synaesthesia observed (5.9%, above the usual 4.4% compared against individuals in the initial survey that did not actively experience any sensations regularly) were not statistically outside the realm of chance, but such changes were noticed between cases that more tests need to be conducted to further elucidate the change in synaesthesia levels! With more understanding of these two effects on the human brain, a more precise application of sound-interaction-based therapy could be developed to treat the more inhibiting aspects of the human emotional response to sound.
2015) Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. PeerJ 3:e851 https://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.851(
Novella, Steven. “ASMR” http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/asmr/