How Boring Videos Can Give You a 'Brain Orgasm'

GentleWhispering triggers tingles, calms anxiety, puts some to sleep.

ByABC News
April 7, 2014, 2:57 PM

April 8, 2014— -- The YouTube channel, "GentleWhispering," features 180 videos that most people would consider slow-paced and boring. But for those who say they experience the neurological phenomenon ASMR, sounds of crumpling paper, hushed voice tones or finger-tapping can be as stimulating as an "orgasm for the brain."

They describe the pleasurable sensation as "tingling" and "positive" with a cathartic effect.

"It's a strong response," said the YouTube channel's creator, Maria, a 27-year-old medical assistant from Maryland. "After the goose bumps, you get so tired, it literally feels like satisfied exhaustion, like an extra workout."

For Maria, a medical assistant who is going to school to learn massage, these videos are a hobby anchored in her sensitivity to aural stimuli. She speaks intimately into the camera in her signature whisper, one touched with a hint of her native Russian, inviting viewers to imagine they are being fitted for a new suit or having a dermatological exam.

The latter, "Steamy Dreamy SPAtenious ASMR," which can be watched in binaural sound, has more than 1 million views in just two months.

"There are a lot of people who actually get tingles from whispering voices," said Maria, who chooses not to use her last name.

In 2011, a growing group of these sensory seekers embraced a term that had been coined by a 30-year-old New Yorker who works in Healthcare technology -- autonomous sensory meridian response or ASMR.

Maria, says it is a powerful, but positive, sensation that sometimes feels like "the brain is being pushed in."

Others have described the feeling as a "brain orgasm."

GentleWhispering has 203,573 subscribers and almost 55 million views. Although the videos are somewhat sensual, Maria said, "there is no adult language and they are not X-rated."

Some doctors have commented on the condition, most notably Yale University neurologist, Dr. Steven Novella, who wrote with some skepticism in 2012 on his blog, Neurologica, about these ASMR triggers:

"They all seem to engage the same networks of the brain – that part of us that interacts carefully and thoughtfully with our environment or with other people. There is something calmly satisfying about such things.

"But of course not everyone gets a definite tingling sensation in their head and spine as a result of this soft satisfaction. I always start my investigations of such phenomena by asking the most basic question – is it real? In this case, I don't think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is."

Maria's are not the only ASMR videos out there. Others are role-playing sessions such as getting a haircut or visiting the doctor or even a person whispering the Book of Genesis.

"People either love them or hate them," said Maria. "They are not for everyone." Some, she said, are annoyed by the videos.

Jennifer Souther, who lives near Washington, D.C., tells via email that she believes she has ASMR, even though she has never been "diagnosed." She says she reacts to specific videos, "usually massage videos with a model, hair brushing with a model, or tapping sound videos - I hate role play ones, they just feel silly to me."

She prefers Olivia's Kissper ASMR and GalaxyDreaming ASMR spa videos.

"I was probably a teenager when I first noticed it from watching cooking videos online when they did close ups on peoples' hands doing chopping and other such actions," said Souther, 23. "For visual-based triggers like cooking videos, I'm mesmerized and can't look away. I get very, very relaxed watching videos with sound, and that's when I feel the most tingly. I still don't know how to describe it."