Top 10 of 2012: Science & Health

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Based on the interest and attention they gathered at Yale and beyond, here are the year’s top 10 Science & Health stories:

1. Yale scientists explain how ketamine vanquishes depression within hours

Hands-down, the most-read story of the year — with 14,000-plus readers — looked at how a party drug known as “Special K” could dramatically lower depression. Readers were also interested in the news that stress — even healthy stress — can shrink the brain.

2. Exhaustive family tree for birds shows recent, rapid diversification

Bird lovers were undoubtedly among the over 5,000 readers who made this the second-highest story in the Science & Health channel. And speaking of birds, ancient ones had wing feathers that were a serious drag. The work by Yale researchers to create a “Map of Life” also scored well with readers.

3. Cell phone use in pregnancy may cause behavioral disorders in offspring

Stories about pregnancy and childbirth attracted thousands of readers, especially ones on the differences between natural birth and C-section on the development of brain-boosting proteins and the fact that women cannot rewind the “biological clock.”

4. Yale researchers making headway in quest to solve autism’s mysteries

A page devoted to the diverse studies of autism underway at Yale was visited by over 2,500 readers. Additions to that page this year included stories about genetic mutations at conception that are linked to autism and the impact of new diagnostic criteria for the disease.

5. Nearby super-Earth likely a diamond planet

The discovery of a diamond-encrusted planet lured star-struck readers, as did the news of a planet with four suns and two planets so close that it stuns even astronomers.

6. Yale’s new innovation and design center to foster ‘culture of engineering’

The Becton-based center attracted the attention of both readers and those who pass by the first-floor facility. In other facilities-based news, the Center for Science and Social Science opened on Science Hill, and Yale School of Nursing is moving to West Campus.

7. New antibody drug engages the immune system in fight against cancer

Cancer-related stories, especially discoveries that could lead to new treatments, were of interest to many readers. These include the discovery that an antibody found in lupus may protect against certain cancers and a way to save blood from the ravages of chemo treatment.

8. Diamond in the rough: Half-century puzzle solved

The fascination with all things diamond also drew readers to this story about the synthesis of a cold-compressed graphite material that is as hard as its natural counterpart.

9. Addicts’ cravings have different roots in men and women

Studies of the roots of substance abuse — including cocaine’s effect on the teen brain and the neurons that drive both overeating and cocaine use — also drew many readers.

10. Yale one of first institutions to get powerful new DNA sequencing technology

Studies based on DNA sequencing this year revealed that small genetic differences matter, that nobody is genetically perfect, and that the Galapagos turtle known as Lonesome George may not have been the last of his species.

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