MOSI launches "highly addictive" musical game that aids research into Alzheimer's

By Richard Moss | 05 June 2014

A new musical game launched this week at MOSI in Manchester may just help scientists in the battle against Alzheimer's disease

a photo of a man and woman seated
DJ Dave Haslam pictured with Dr Marieke Navin from MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry) launching #HookedOnMusic; a new online game aimed at collecting data to explore the science behind what makes a musical hook. Scientists behind the game also hope the results will aid future research into Alzheimer’s disease.© MOSI
What exactly is it that makes a tune catchy and what gives a song its hook? These are the ambitious questions the scientists behind a new musical game, previewing this week at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, are exploring with the help of the public.

Originally created by computational musicologist Dr John Ashley Burgoyne and his team at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht, the new online game, #HookedOnMusic, has been developed by Reading Room to explore the science behind catchy refrains.

The team hope the results from #HookedOnMusic will aid future research into Alzheimer's disease by devising ways to trigger memories and provide therapeutic benefits.

But as well as being about neuroscience and scientific discovery, the online game is proving itself to be fun and highly addictive. With four ways to play - selecting the catchiest tune or singing along and trying to stay in time - users are offered the chance to improve on their scores and share results with their friends on social media networks.

A campaign to get people talking about and nominating tunes for the game was launched last year at MOSI during the 2013 Manchester Science Festival as part of the citizen science programme. The aim was to identify and nominate the catchiest tune – the hook that makes a tune catchy.

Celebrities and the general public alike nominated tunes – all in the name of science. The nominated tunes are now part of the #HookedonMusic live online game.

“Catchy music is about so much more than summer hits,” explianed Dr Burgoyne. “It’s really about what kinds of music we remember – and what kinds we don’t.

"With #HookedOnMusic, we’re trying to measure how much faster a ‘hook’ can come back to you compared to the rest of a song and what there is in the music that can explain the difference.”

Manchester DJ, musicologist and journalist Dave Haslam was at the MOSI launch this week and hailed the project for its innovation. 

“Everyone knows when they’ve heard something catchy or which resonate with them in some way, and stays with them,” he said.

"But to try and uncover the science behind this is pretty exciting. And if the results from thousands of people playing the game lead to the scientists discovering how music can help people with serious memory loss then that would be fantastic.”

The game can be played as many times as the player wants. The more participants the better the results will be - and the more scientists will be able to learn about musical memory.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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