A fourth generation journalist, del Barco was born in Lima, Peru, to a Peruvian father and Mexican-American mother. She grew up in Baldwin, Kansas, and in Oakland, California, and has lived in Manhattan, Madrid, Miami, Lima and Los Angeles. She began her journalism career as a reporter, columnist and editor for the Daily Californian while studying anthropology and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University with her thesis, "Breakdancers: Who are they, and why are they spinning on their heads?"
On 12 March 2012, Steven Novella , Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine and an active contributor to widely reported and academically cited discussion and debate on topics related to neurology and scientific skepticism, published a post about ASMR on Neurologica , a blog dedicated to his writings on neuroscience, skepticism, and critical thinking. In it, Novella says that he always starts his investigations of such phenomena by asking whether or not it is real. Regarding ASMR, Novella says "in this case, I don't think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently experienced and described" it with "fairly specific details. In this way it's similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history." Novella tentatively posits the possibilities that ASMR might be either a type of pleasurable seizure, or another way to activate the "pleasure response". However, Novella draws attention to the lack of scientific investigation into ASMR, suggesting that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation technologies should be used to study the brains of people who experience ASMR in comparison to people who do not, as a way of beginning to seek scientific understanding and explanation of the phenomenon.