A large proportion of older adults look for health information online, especially when more formal healthcare channels like primary care providers are not easily available. ChatGPT has had an incredibly rapid uptake among all kinds of users in the last year. UBC researchers in the Neuroscience, Engagement, and Smart Tech (NEST) lab under Dr. Julie Robillard, investigated what types of information about dementia users were likely to find while using ChatGPT. The paper was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We spoke to lead author Dr. Jill Dosso, Postdoctoral Fellow in the NEST lab and UBC Neuroscience PhD graduate under Dr. Alan Kingstone, to learn more about this study as well as her research interests.

Dr. Jill Dosso

What were the main findings of this paper?

When we prompted ChatGPT-3.5 with simple, FAQ-style questions about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, the information it came back with was accurate and unbiased, and it reminded users to speak to a physician. However, websites created by national dementia organizations tended to provide similar information in more readable language and pair it with additional relevant resources like referrals to in-person supports or links to current scientific literature.

Why are these findings important?

This study can help equip families to source high-quality information about healthy aging online. It can also inform healthcare providers and non-profit organizations in advising families about where to look for information and tailoring their own services to best support aging-related needs in the community.

What about neuroscience research interests you?

I love working in brain health research because it’s always changing. There’s always a new intellectual challenge and something to be thinking about, and at the same time, the work can make a tangible, real-world impact on people’s lives.

What prompted your interest in this research?

In my research, I am interested in how people interact with emerging social technologies to support their brain health: things like social robots, telehealth services, and digital content. In this work, we looked at brain health applications of a new tool that is rapidly changing the research landscape in all kinds of ways: ChatGPT.

What was involved in carrying out this research study?

I led this project, and it was a fun one! Our team (myself, Dr. Robillard, and now-medical student Jaya Kailley) worked hard to put this together on a tight timeline because the digital tools are in such a period of flux and we wanted to have a snapshot of what the user experience feels like at this unique moment.

How was this study funded?

This study was funded as part of ongoing NEST Lab work with the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, AGE-WELL NCE, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We have a number of exciting projects coming up in the lab (for kids all the way through older adults), in person and online, so if readers are interested in participating in research on new tech for brain health, we’d always love to hear from them.