Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) describes the experience of a pleasant body sensation accompanied by a feeling of well-being and relaxation in response to specific audiovisual stimuli, such as whispers and personal attention. Previous work suggests a relationship between this experience with the processing of affective and body states; however, no research has explored differences in interoception between people experiencing ASMR and those who do not. We hypothesized that the ASMR experience is based on interoception processing. To test this, we assessed group differences across different dimensions of interoception: Interoceptive sensibility (IS), measured using the multidimensional assessment of interoceptive awareness (MAIA); Interoceptive accuracy score (IAS), measured by calculating performance in a heartbeat counting task (HCT), and the electrophysiological index of interoception, the heartbeat evoked potential (HEP), which was calculated during the HCT and an ASMR tingle reporting task (ASMR-TRT). Our results showed that IS and IAS, dimensions requiring conscious awareness, showed no differences between groups. However, HEP amplitude was larger in the ASMR group in both tasks. We concluded that the ASMR experience is based on an unconscious interoceptive mechanism, reflected by HEP, where exteroceptive social-affective stimuli are integrated to represent a body state of positive affective feelings and relaxation, as has been described for affective touch. The relevance of this finding relies on that interoceptive function, body regulation, and emotional/affective experiences are fundamental for well-being, and the relationship between ASMR and interoception opens the way to future research exploring the causal relationship between them and their potential clinical applications.
- autonomous sensory meridian response
- heartbeat evoked potential
- prosocial affective behaviour
- psychological wellbeing