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That nice, weird tingly head feeling

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

What do you call a shower of delicious tingling over the head, neck and shoulders, and spine, triggered by an odd variety of gentle, quiet and rhythmic stimuli? Until relatively recently in history, you just called it a weird feeling. Until it got a fancy name: autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).

I get these odd “brain gasms” from learning cool things in conversation. More when I was younger — yet another thing age has been stealing from me!

Importantly, one of the classic ASMR triggers is receiving attention. So how much does ASMR account for the value of therapeutic interactions? For placebo that comes just from working with a healthcare practitioner? Especially an attentive one? I am guessing quite a bit…

I have had them in doctors’ offices and massage appointments many times. Massage therapy is absolutely chock-a-block with ASMR triggers. Interesting and gentle tactile stimulation (especially around the head) … quiet, repetitive actions … soft voices and whispers… and attentiveness! All of these are classic triggers. Do we love massage partly because of ASMR? Probably.

A wise therapist might even make a point of optimizing treatment for ASMR.

I have been meaning to say something about this topic for ages, and I’ll probably write more about it soon, now that it’s on my mind.

Update: Okay, I wrote about it: for a full article, see Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.