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Science Notes: ; Early nomads traded grain on the Silk Road

3-D wiring diagram depicts mouse brain

Scientists have created a detailed, three-dimensional wiring diagram of the mouse brain. That should help researchers seek clues about how the human brain works in health and disease.

It’s the first brain-wide wiring diagram for a mammal at such a level of detail. While it doesn’t reveal every connection between each of the rodent’s 75 million brain cells, it shows how parts of the brain are connected.

The work was described online April 2 in the journal Nature by Hongkui Zeng and colleagues at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

To create the diagram, scientists combined data from more than 1,000 mouse brains, each of which was divided into 140 slices.

– Associated Press

Early nomads traded grain on the Silk Road

Nomadic shepherds in the high plains of Central Asia used grain imported from China and southwestern Asia more than 5,000 years ago, perhaps to sprinkle over bodies in funeral rituals, according to a new study.

The discovery came from a recent investigation of burial sites in Kazakhstan. The scientists, led by Michael Frachetti, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, included a botanist and local archaeologists.

Because what is now Kazakhstan was at a crossroads in the nomads’ path, the findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide clues about the later emergence of the trade route known as the Silk Road.

Early on, the nomads moved only by foot, spending winters in warmer valleys and summers in the mountains. Their seasonal moves broadened their interactions and helped disperse the grains, Frachetti said.

“These folks were not traveling extremely long distances, but it spread fairly rapidly,” he continued. “You can imagine a story where a person goes down in the valley, starts trading seeds and takes them back.”

The scientists also found evidence that by about 1500 B.C., the nomads were cultivating their own barley, wheat, millet and peas.

Frachetti’s graduate students found remnants of grains from the period in an ancient domestic oven, a storage vessel and a kiln.

“We see the evolution,” he said, “from the introduction of seeds used for ritual purposes to something that has impact on the local economy.”

– New York Times