Dis­cover a very dif­fer­ent kind of plea­sure point.

How Buffy Cram dis­cov­ered the mean­ing be­hind a tickly feel­ing called a “brain or­gasm.”

Elle (Canada) - - Elle - By Buffy Cram

for as long as I can re­mem­ber, I’ve been sus­cep­ti­ble to a strange and tickly feel­ing that washes over me when strangers speak to me a cer­tain way, es­pe­cially if they’re ex­plain­ing some­thing slowly and de­lib­er­ately. If they’re point­ing or whis­per­ing, it in­ten­si­fies my re­ac­tion. This sen­sa­tion is sim­i­lar to how you might feel when some­one runs their hands through your hair, only in my case it’s much stronger and I get it with­out any phys­i­cal contact what­so­ever. One of my earli­est mem­o­ries is of get­ting the tick­les while watch­ing Bob Ross’ The Joy of Paint­ing on TV when I was a kinder­gart­ner. But I have also got­ten the sen­sa­tion while speak­ing with kind-hearted teach­ers and li­brar­i­ans, flight at­ten­dants and peo­ple be­hind per­fume coun­ters, par­tic­u­larly if they have an ac­cent and a per­fect man­i­cure and tap their fin­gers a lot. When the feel­ing comes, it swarms over me in tickly waves that travel from the top of my head down my spine. I can eas­ily close my eyes and slip into a trance when it hap­pens. Ex­cept I don’t be­cause I’m usu­ally in the mid­dle of a con­ver­sa­tion or in an air­port.

I used to ask peo­ple if they had ever ex­pe­ri­enced this sen­sa­tion, but my ques­tion typ­i­cally elicited a blank stare. A few peo­ple would say they knew what I meant, kind of. At this point, I would em­pha­size that it’s a plea­sur­able—but not sex­ual— sen­sa­tion. Then they’d look at me like I was some sort of tickle pervert, which is why I stopped talk­ing about it al­to­gether. Even as re­cently as a few years ago, when my h

boyfriend asked why I was sneak­ing out of bed to watch the Ger­man shop­ping chan­nel in the mid­dle of the night, I dodged the truth. He knew I had chronic in­som­nia; I said it helped. It was eas­ier—and less creepy—than ex­plain­ing how all those women shush-shush­ing in a for­eign lan­guage felt like fin­gers through my hair.

The feel­ing re­mained a mys­tery un­til a lit­tle over a year ago, when I heard Amer­i­can nov­el­ist An­drea Seigel on the This Amer­i­can Life ra­dio show re­port­ing that the “tin­gling” she some­times feels in her head has a name: au­tono­mous sen­sory merid­ian re­sponse (ASMR). She said that clin­ical stud­ies are un­der way, and, although re­searchers don’t have an ex­pla­na­tion for the phe­nom­e­non yet, peo­ple claim that it lulls them into a deep state of re­lax­ation. (Later, I learned that it is some­times also re­ferred to, per­haps some­what mis­lead­ingly, as a “brain or­gasm” and that not all neu­rol­o­gists be­lieve the phe­nom­e­non ex­ists.)

Seigel went on to talk about her own ex­pe­ri­ences with the feel­ing: how she no­ticed it while watch­ing Bob Ross when she was a kid (just like me!) and, later in life, be­came ad­dicted to watch­ing the home shop­ping net­work, which also trig­gered the sen­sa­tion. It was at this point in the pro­gram that I quite lit­er­ally fell to my knees. All my life I had thought I was the only per­son who felt this way. Then Seigel got to the best part: There are peo­ple out there— “ASMRtists”—with YouTube chan­nels ded­i­cated to giv­ing peo­ple the feel­ing. I raced to my com­puter to give it a try.

Watch­ing my first few ASMR videos on YouTube was a strange ex­pe­ri­ence. Some of the ASMRtists were re­ally ham­ming it up. They cooed into the cam­era, wear­ing too much lip­gloss for my taste. It was all vaguely sex­ual and com­pletely re­moved from the feel­ing I knew. Be­neath each video were thou­sands of com­ments from peo­ple who, like me, had har­boured a se­cret feel­ing all their lives. It was a huge, col­lec­tive com­ing-out party—one I wasn’t en­tirely sure I wanted to be a part of. But I no­ticed some­thing else among all those com­ments—some­thing I couldn’t ig­nore: Many view­ers (like, thou­sands of them) claimed that the videos were cur­ing

It was at this point in the pro­gram that I quite lit­er­ally fell to my knees. All my life I’d thought I was the only per­son who felt this way.

their in­som­nia. “I can’t even get through this video with­out fall­ing asleep,” said one com­menter. “Zzzzzz,” said an­other. For weeks, I scoured dif­fer­ent ASMR “providers” un­til I even­tu­ally came across a video that seemed as if it were de­signed specif­i­cally for me: a so-called “show and tell” video by a woman named Ilse on her chan­nel The Water­whis­pers. In the video, she flips through a home­made book of pressed flow­ers and herbs, point­ing and whis­per­ing and tapping her fin­gers as she tells sto­ries, in a Dutch ac­cent, about her life. It was sweet and sooth­ing, and ev­ery time she turned a page of that crinkly book, I ex­pe­ri­enced a full-blown tickle ex­plo­sion on my scalp. That day I gave my­self over com­pletely to the feel­ing, and my life has not been the same since.

In the year since I first found out about ASMR, the com­mu­nity has swelled into the mil­lions. Ev­ery day, more and more peo­ple claim that the videos are chang­ing their lives, even cur­ing them of in­som­nia, anx­iety and de­pres­sion. I count my­self among them. These days, my bed­side ta­ble is clear of herbal sleep aids. I no longer wake up at 4 a.m. to steep va­le­rian tea or watch Ger­man TV. In­stead, most nights I climb into bed with my lap­top and a pair of head­phones and put on one of my favourite ASMR videos. Most videos are be­tween 20 and 40 min­utes, and I cy­cle be­tween about 15 favourites so I don’t build up a tol­er­ance. Usu­ally, the waves of tick­les start right away and grow stronger un­til they reach a crescendo af­ter 10 or 12 min­utes and then slowly fade. At this point, my mind has emp­tied out and I’m able to drift off, worry-free, into a bliss­ful sleep.

With hun­dreds of mil­lions of views be­tween them, the ASMRtists I have come to rely on (see my playlist be­low) truly are masters of the form. Re­searchers may still not have any ex­pla­na­tion for what ASMR is or how it func­tions, but if, like me, you’ve been chas­ing this se­cret and won­der­ful feel­ing all your life (or if you have been en­ticed to dis­cover it), that won’t mat­ter. It will be more than enough to put on your head­phones, hit “play” and feel the tick­les wash over you. n

BUFFY CRAM’S ASMR YOUTUBE PLAYLIST

The Wa­ter whis­pers, Gen­tle Whis­per­ing, Whis­pers Red ASMR, ASMRGAINS, Heather Feather ASMR, Queen Of Serene, ASMR ma­nia, Soft Anna PL, ASMR Vids, The ASMR An­gel, ac­ci­den­tally grace­ful, Mas­sage ASMR, Mr Head Tin­gles ASMR, ASMR re­quests, Neko ASMR.

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