Entertainment & Arts

Hit songs help memory research

The Spice Girls in 1997 Image copyright PA
Image caption The Spice Girls' smash hit Wannabe is among the songs being used in the research

Hit songs by Elvis Presley, Abba and The Spice Girls are among those being used in research that hopes to unlock the secrets of how memory works.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam have created an online game in an attempt to shed light on why some tunes get stuck in your head.

Fans must identify song clips and compare them by their catchiness.

The researchers hope the findings will help the understanding of long-term memory and the treatment for dementia.

Dr Ashley Burgoyne of the University of Amsterdam said: "We do know that music has a very powerful effect on memory, more powerful than many other memory triggers. But the reasons for it aren't completely understood.

"Why is it that there are certain pieces of music that you hear just a couple of times and 10 years later you hear it again, and you may have forgotten the title and the artist, but the music comes back to your immediately?"

Better understanding

Dr Burgoyne said he hoped 10,000 people would play the game, Hooked On Music. The findings from the game would be "one piece of a larger puzzle", he said.

"There's been some very nice research showing that, if you can bring the favourite music of people who are suffering from dementia, it can really re-enliven them. These memories don't seem to fade.

"So if we can have a better understanding of how that process works and identify the features of music that seem to lock [it] into long-term memory, then you can perhaps use that to make better clinical decisions about what music is going to be the most therapeutic."

The game was created and launched with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

The museum's Dr Marieke Navin said: "The idea is that people could be contributing to scientific research. We tried to make it a fun thing that people might want to play irrespective of the science behind it."

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