Matt Hackmann

Head Sensations

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I'd been considering writing a blog post on this subject for some time, but balked because it seemed an odd thing to talk about. But, after the topic came up at lunch not long ago, I figured why not. Besides, I need to post something this month as I've not missed posting at least one thing per month since August 2010. Gotta keep the streak alive.

The aforementioned topic is a physical sensation that's been dubbed on the internet as "ASMR", or "autonomous sensory meridian response".It's honestly a really shitty name and I thought the original idea of "brain orgasm" explained it better, but the community doesn't take kindly to that since it's not a sexual thing. To actually describe the feeling is a bit difficult as there's nothing really to relate it to. The usual description is "head tingles" and, while that's not entirely untrue, it doesn't seem quite accurate either. I'd describe it more as a feeling of mild pressure sensation on the top and back of the scalp that will at times "bloom" in intensity across the scalp in response to stimuli. Yes, there are also tingles.

What triggers this seems to be hit and miss. Slow, steady, soft speech patterns or rustling noises can do it, so does close personal attention such as a visit to the eye doctor. The aforementioned community is a subreddit that deals in posting videos that cause this sensation for people. These generally range from creepy videos of people whispering things into a microphone to creepy videos of people making various noises with various things or sometimes role play videos that are a mix of the two. There's no getting around the creepy factor, because it is and doubly so if you don't know what the fuck is going on.

As for myself and my history with this... condition(?), I've had it for as long as I can remember. I recall fairly well the first time I actually tried to vocalize it to somebody. One of my cousins and I were coloring at my grandma's house and I said something about tickles in my brain. I believe I was six or seven at the time. My young self would try to figure out ways of inducing the "tingles", at one point settling on raising and lowering my eyebrows repeatedly in erratic patterns (the results were mixed).

As I rolled into my later teen years, I kind of forgot about whole thing except when I would go to the optometrist. It wasn't until mid-2012 when I saw an ad for the subreddit that it was brought back to my attention and a little bit of perspective put on the whole thing. Having been tuned back into the phenomenon and having a better idea of how to trigger it, I tested the waters with the creepy videos and, though it's hit and miss, they work. Now, late in the evening, I'll often put one of those videos on, lay down on my bed or the couch with my earbuds in, and take a train to Relaxation Town.

It's quite nice, really.