What It Really Means If You're A Tinglehead

If you like listening to whispers or the sound of crinkling paper, you might be a tinglehead. According to Today, a tinglehead is someone who experiences autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) from certain stimuli, like whispering, hushing, white noise, crinkling paper or plastic, chewing, tapping, and cutting hair. These stimuli can trigger a tingling or shivering sensation down your spine, sometimes referred to as "braingasms."

While there's currently little research that's been done on ASMR, anecdotal evidence suggests these sounds provide stress relief (via Today). Pleasurable sounds and sensations can even be derived from the most common life experiences, like folding towels and cleaning your ears. The bottom line is, these experiences are often associated with pleasant memories. But different people may respond differently, and not everyone who experiences ASMR will have the same effects. For instance, you could derive pleasure from listening to whispers, while white noise may not produce the same pleasure response. This just means that stimuli are perceived uniquely to the individual.

What scientists do know about ASMR

While scientific research on ASMR is lacking, some studies have shown promising insights into the brains and personalities of tingleheads, according to CNN. A 2018 study published in the journal Bioimpacts found that participants who experienced ASMR showed significant activity in the brain's reward center when subjected to pleasurable stimuli, which is where the feel-good hormone oxytocin is produced.

Another study conducted in 2017 and published in Frontiers in Psychology examined the personality traits of people who experience ASMR and found that self-identified tingleheads were more likely to score higher in curiosity and neuroticism than conscientiousness and extraversion. "People with ASMR score high on the personality trait 'openness to experience," Stephen Smith, a psychology professor at the University of Winnipeg, told CNN. "I think they're more receptive to specific types of physical, auditory, and visual experiences than the rest of us." MRI scans also showed unusual connections in areas of the brain tied to attention and sensation, suggesting that the brains of people who experience ASMR are wired differently during a state of rest.