The Medical Research Council is trying to encourage research into brain disease by offering proof-of-concept grants worth a total of £4.8 million.
Researchers gave the news a cautious welcome. Despite being a research council priority, research into brain disease has received limited funding.
Alistair Compston, professor of neurology at Cambridge University and former chairman of the MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, said brain science had suffered from fluctuations in MRC support. "If there is renewed commitment to this important area of research, that is very much to be welcomed," he said.
The funding comes from a successful Research Councils UK bid in the 2002 spending review. Grants of up to £80,000 over two years will be available.
Nancy Rothwell, MRC council member and a neuroscientist at Manchester University, said neurodegeneration was the single most serious disease affecting the developing world.
By 2030, it is estimated that 19 million people in the UK will be over 60 and will outnumber 20 to 39-year-olds by a fifth. Conditions such as Alzheimer's and dementia will become the country's most serious health issues.