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What Is ASMR? Ilse Blansert's Videos May Trigger 'Brain Orgasms'

04/09/2014 10:43 EDT | Updated 04/14/2014 10:59 EDT

Can a video give your brain an orgasm?

Ilse Blansert's work may be capable of just that. The 25-year-old Torontonian has gained an enormous following with The Waterwhispers, a YouTube channel that taps into an online community of people who use autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) to help them relax.

ASMR is a pleasurable tingling sensation that begins in the head and often spreads to the spine and the limbs, says the ASMR Research Institute.

Since 2012, April 9 has been designated International ASMR Day, starting with members of a Facebook group and spreading to the rest of the community.

ASMR can be triggered through techniques such as slow, accented or unique speech patterns, or another person touching your hair or your back. Sounds such as tapping or scratching can also stir the sensation.

Blansert described the feeling to the New York Daily News:

“Imagine that you're outside and all of a sudden a cold breeze touches your skin. You feel this cold kinda shiver under your skin that causes goose bumps on the outside. Imagine that instead of feeling a cold shiver or tingle, it's a warm pleasant one that you can feel in your entire body."

It's the opposite of the unpleasant tingles that come from sounds such as nails scratching on a chalkboard, wrote the Daily News.

Some describe it as a "brain orgasm," or braingasm, though the ASMR subreddit said it is only sexual in the sense that eating chocolate is orgasmic.

Blansert, who doesn't use the "brain orgasm" analogy in her work, has a nearly lifelong relationship with ASMR.

She felt tingles at six years old when schoolkids whispered in her ear or drew numbers on her back with their fingers, she wrote on her website.

She also felt intense sensations while watching "The Joy of Painting" with Bob Ross: "... his voice and the brushes on the canvas made my entire body very tingly!"

Blansert discovered an ASMR community online in 2011, at a time that she was suffering from anxiety and insomnia, CTV News reported.

She soon discovered that helping people relax was her true calling. She stopped pursuing a career in animal care and devoted herself to ASMR full-time, starting her YouTube channel in February 2012, said ABC News.

Blansert made videos of herself brushing hair, tapping a djembe (African drum) softly and running crayons across each other on a bed, drawing more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers and over 16 million views to date.

And she's not the only one who has built up such a strong following. YouTube channel GentleWhispering has nearly 200,000 subscribers, while Heather Feather, like Blansert, has more than 100,000.

Emily Hansen, a follower of Blansert's from Houston, Texas, told ABC that she experienced sleepless nights before turning to ASMR.

"It was one of the most euphoric sensations I’ve ever felt," she said. "... my brain relaxes so much and I get so connected to it that I just fall asleep. I mean I just conk out.”

ASMR has no known scientific studies to back it up, though it has gained some acceptance among medical experts.

These videos could be just as effective, if not better than sleeping pills, Dr. Amer Khan, sleep specialist with the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, Calif., told ABC News, though he added they're not without risks.

"What it’s really doing is taking you away from the real issues that you’re dealing with, which is how to turn off your mind, how to feel relaxed at the end of the day," he said.

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