Hookedonmusic – play the game, help science


After a year of exploring the concept via a range of events, from a silent disco, family show (with a giant rastamouse), panel talks and an interactive quiz, Hookedonmusic, the citizen science game is live and ready to play.

DJ Dave Haslam and Dr Marieke Navin from the Manchester Science Festival launched the game last week at MOSI, the proud producers. It is kind of fitting to see Dave in front of the baby, the first stored-program electronic digital computer. Hookedonmusic can be played on a desktop computer, tablet or phone with web access. We were keen to ensure the game is accessible to most people who can get to a computer with internet access, unlike some smart phone apps that have to be downloaded.


I’ve been citizen scientist- in-residence at MOSI (not always literally – my base is in Life Sciences at The University of Manchester)  and we’ve been developing the concept from computational musicologist, Dr Ashley Burgoyne’s brilliant idea, for over a year and the game has been 7 months in the making by Reading Room in Manchester and freelance project manager, Tobin May.  Way back in 2013 we were shaping the concept by talking about it out and about at festivals, events and conferences. I learned this trick from my development days in the film industry – pitching is development, storytelling is development. And I also came to realise the value of visualising scientific concepts from Fashion designer Prof Helen Storey and creative producer Caroline Coates, from the Helen Storey Foundation, who chatted to me about how they use their work to ‘prototype the future‘.

Now that the game is launched, one important thing is to raise awareness of how musical memory is important to people with dementia. Dementia refers to a syndrome, with deterioration in memory, thinking, problem solving or language. Its caused when the brain is damaged by disease, the most common cause being Alzheimer’s disease, followed by vascular dementia, where the brain has been cut off from its blood supply, for example after a stroke. The risk of developing dementia increases with age and has physical, emotional and economic pressures on those diagnosed, carers and health providers.

With dementia, short term memory is lost, but long term memory remains – and because musical memory is long term, the songs that people remember during their life time can often be used to evoke a response and communicate with people with dementia. Indeed much of human history is remembered through song and passed on from one generation to the next.

Just under half of the people with dementia are undiagnosed and people with dementia (and their carers) miss out on the care and support they need. As we learned from Professor Alistair Burns (Professor of Old Age Psychiatry), when we launched the concept, many people also become socially isolated with dementia, and music, a powerful social connector, can be the glue that reconnects people with their life, their identity and their memories.

With this game, the idea is that the results may help provide insights into musical memory and, through further studies, shed light on improving quality of life for dementia patients. Having played the game quite a bit myself i think its fun, entertaining and might even have mood enhancing effects (no studies so far but see what you think). The brain chemistry behind the effects of music on health and well being range from affecting human mood, motivation, immunity and social connectivity. Some of the evidence for this is outlined in this review, where the involvement of pleasure (dopamine and opioid), stress (cortisol) and trust (oxytocin) hormones are explored.

You’ll be pleased to know there are already many organisations, from Manchester Camerata to Singing for the Brain and more, using music to enhance the quality of life of people with dementia. This video from playlistsforlife gives an insight into this. As someone who cares about the social side of citizen science and its potential benefits to society, this side of things is really important to me – so i hope lots of people – thousands will play the game.

Harry & Margaret from Playlist for Life on Vimeo.

To get involved as a partner, contact manchester science festival by visiting their website and using the contact email provided.

Thanks to everyone who helped shape the idea, contributed a song to the playlist and the funders who invested in it (Science Museum GroupWellcome Trust, Manchester City Council – top peeps!). Special mentions, actually…  Jean Franczyk, MOSI’s director, Roger Highfield (Science Museum Group, External Affairs) and Natalie Ireland (Learning & Public Programmes) – who know a good idea when they see one and champion and support them all the way.

Some cookies take a long time to bake…  but, i believe are genuinely worth the wait. See if you agree… play the game, get hookedonmusic, help science.

And, if you’re in Manchester on 21st June, try the quiz, play the game, see the show at MOSI.



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