What is BrainWaves?

When evidence of a growing youth mental health crisis began to emerge in 2020, a group of leading academics, educationalists and philanthropists got together and agreed urgent action was needed. BrainWaves is their response.

It is an evidence-based, multi-sectoral initiative focused on

  • equipping scientists to discover more about the adolescent brain;
  • enabling schools and education professionals to have the tools to teach and manage good mental health in schools
  • helping young people to know and understand their mental health and wellbeing better.


The concept is simple. BrainWaves is creating a platform for scientific studies.  These studies form the evidence base behind BrainWaves teaching support and classroom materials. The mission is to help schools become highly effective at nurturing wellbeing amongst their adolescent students.

Experts at the University of Oxford – an acknowledged global leader in mental health research and large, longitudinal health studies – will be following a cohort of young people over several years, providing a unique insight into the adolescent brain and mental health.

What We Will Do

BrainWaves is a new chapter in adolescent mental health and wellbeing.

At the heart of this long-term programme is a new research platform. It will combine data from different sources and include one of the largest-ever cohort studies of adolescents.

The BrainWaves platform will grow in value over time. It will be a sophisticated framework for future research into genetics, neuroscience and at-scale therapeutic interventions.

  • There will be a new, rolling research cohort from a diverse group of UK secondary schools. It will provide a crucial evidence base about adolescent mental health
  • Researchers in the UK and globally will have free access to vital data assets, enabling new insights into prevention and treatment
  • There are cutting-edge, evidence-backed educational resources for teachers and students
  • Effective therapeutic interventions will be designed focused on what’s best for young people
Our work will lead to better prevention, education and treatment in adolescent mental health and wellbeing – backed by the best and newest scientific evidence.

Our Organisation

BrainWaves is a long-term research and education collaboration between the University of Oxford (a registered charity), the University of Swansea and The Day News & Media Ltd, the leading publisher of news and critical literacy content for secondary schools.

BrainWaves is run through a Scientific Steering Group, chaired by Professor John Gallacher, which is accountable to the BrainWaves Oversight Board. Strategic development and funding are driven by a Development Board and the project is advised by an Expert Advisory Council and its Young Persons Advisory Group.

The Leadership Team

Our Partners

The University of Oxford is the acknowledged global leader in large cohort studies and the Department of Psychiatry’s portfolio of mental health research was recently recognised as the best in the UK. The department includes international expertise in affective disorders, governance (including ethics and consent), adolescent mental health trials and the management of large-scale data science programmes. BrainWaves is the only international longitudinal study of its kind to use the power of science as a bridge between the research community and the classroom.

The Day is a digital online daily newspaper for young people, designed to encourage debate about serious contemporary issues. Its content has been endorsed by the UK’s Department for Education (DfE) and it has the largest audience of any news brand in the UK in its age group. It is used in UK and international schools by many thousands of teachers every day as part of their lesson planning and schools work closely with The Day to design the best resources. Affiliate schools will form the core of the BrainWaves programme to recruit student volunteers and shape effective in-school courses.

The Population Data Science group, formerly known as the Health Informatics group at Swansea University Medical School, is at the forefront of the increasingly important field of Population Data Science – the science of data about people.
Swansea University is pioneering this science across a range of data-intensive initiatives hosted at the University Medical School. The group, led by Professors David Ford and Ronan Lyons, works locally, across the UK, and internationally to deliver a range of infrastructural, analytical and public engagement initiatives for the safe, socially-acceptable and effective use of population data for public benefit.