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A brief history of ASMR

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Part of the new Museum of the Moving Image exhibit

The concept of autonomous sensory meridian response, known more commonly by its acronym ASMR, evolved out of the age-old prompt, “Hey, does anyone else ever…?” From humble beginnings as a discussion thread on a health forum, the head-tingle sensation has become a full-fledge medical phenomenon.

As a genre of video, ASMR has developed unique styles and methods of invoking sensations, often mimicking intimate situations. Scientific investigations have only just begun to explore why some people react to ASMR, and what use it might have in treating mental illness.

As part of an exhibition for The Museum of the Moving Image in New York, Polygon created a series of videos breaking down genres in the age of YouTube, including ASMR, Unboxing, Explainers, Let’s Play, Reaction videos and Vlogging. The exhibit, titled “The New Genres: Video in the Internet Age,” runs April 27 through Sept. 2.