This paper presents a damage detection algorithm using a combination of global (changes in natural frequencies) and local (curvature mode shapes) vibration-based analysis data as input in artificial neural networks (ANNs) for location and severity prediction of damage in beam-like structures. A finite element analysis tool has been used to obtain the dynamic characteristics of intact and damaged cantilever steel beams for the first three natural modes. Different damage scenarios have been introduced by reducing the local thickness of the selected elements at different locations along finite element model (FEM) of the beam structure. The necessary features for damage detection have been selected by performing sensitivity analyses and different input-output sets have been introduced to various ANNs. In order to check the robustness of the input used in the analysis and to simulate the experimental uncertainties, artificial random noise has been generated numerically and added to noise-free data during the training of the ANNs. In the experimental analysis, two steel beams with eight distributed surface-bonded electrical strain gauges and an accelerometer mounted at the tip have been used to obtain modal parameters such as resonant frequencies and strain mode shapes. Finally, trained feed-forward backpropagation ANNs have been tested using the data obtained from the experimental damage case for quantification and localisation of the damage. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.