The ASMR, these "brain orgasms" that seduce internet users and musicians

ASMR ('Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response') content is supposed to cause a state of relaxation / AFP

ASMR ("Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response") content is supposed to cause a state of relaxation / AFP

You might like some nonsensical sounds like whispers or tapping your nails, maybe more than right? Do not worry, it's normal: you're just sensitive to the "ASMR" method of sensory relaxation that has spread on the internet.

Beyond the simple scientific experiment, the ASMR ("Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response") contents, supposed to cause a state of relaxation, via auditory or visual stimulations, have become a cultural phenomenon.

"It gives you goosebumps," says AFP Bianca Hammonds, who works on the ASMR channel of the American cultural media Fuse.

"You feel your whole body vibrate, it's a zen moment".

On YouTube, there is something for everyone: inflated balloons, rain falling on an umbrella, plastic packaging gently removed … the videos are multiplying and millions of views accumulate.

The success is such that it even arrived on the small screen in American homes, at the most watched event in the country: the Super Bowl, the final of the football championship (NFL).

One of the commercials featured in the broadcast was ASMR, actress Zoe Kravitz, whispering and tapping a bottle of beer with her fingers, before the viewer listened to the bubbling bubbles.

But it is within the rap scene that the ASMR has largely gained popularity, artists not hesitating to incorporate it into their songs.

"I love ASMR," whispered rapper Cardi B in a video with fashion magazine W.

"My husband thinks it's very odd that I watch ASMR videos every night before going to bed," the queen of hip-hop continues, stroking and patting the microphone with her gigantic false nails.

21 Savage – one of the biggest names in American rap today – decided to call him a song "asmr" and began to whisper on some of his songs.

– Whispered rap –

"In hip-hop and rap there is often an inclusion of the + spoken word +," a poetic way of declaiming a text, says Craig Richard, an ASMR researcher at Shenandoah University in Virginia.

"This allows the rappers to whisper while remaining in their musical genre," he adds.

And evolve with this mode allows them to stay in the loop: "They talk to their youngest fans".

An opinion confirmed by Bianca Hammonds, who receives many rap stars on her YouTube channel: "They respect this subculture they see as a way to flourish."

For her, the popularity of these sensory experiences is explained by their meditative virtues.

"We are in a world of constant distraction (…) Take the time to listen to something that relaxes you, focusing on the sounds, I think that's why it's so appreciated".

Enjoyed in rap, but not that: the Canadian electro DJ deadmau5 used some elements in his piece "Terrors In My Head.

– Sexual? –

Particularly fashionable among young people – ASMR videos were among the most shared content on the Instagram social network in 2018 – this phenomenon began to develop in the early 2010s.

"I always knew I loved being whispered in my ear, I just did not know what it was called," recalls Cedrick Williams, an ASMR video creator from Alabama.

"When I started doing this, no one really knew what it was," said the 27-year-old, who claims to earn a hundred dollars a month through his YouTube channel, launched in 2017.

"Now it's exploding, everyone is doing it," he continues. He told him to listen to ASMR to calm his anxiety and insomnia attacks.

The benefits are sensory, possibly sensual, and sometimes even considered sexual. China has begun to censor videos of this kind, explaining that some Internet users used them to broadcast pornographic content.

But according to the experts, the ASMR is more similar to massage and yoga than to porn: a practice that can be considered suggestive but not intrinsically sexual.

Only 5% of participants in a 2015 UK study reported using it to feel sexual arousal. And according to a 2018 study from the University of Sheffield, the ASMR even makes it possible, contrary to sex, to reduce the heart rate.