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One of the year's most popular posts examined the evolutionary pull of running and high-aerobic activities on our brains. Above, a man runs past the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April.
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
There are some people who believe you can tell a lot about a person from what they read. By that measure, judging from the year's most popular posts on Shots, you might think our readers include plenty of depressed parents obsessed with diet and excrement.
Luckily for you, dear readers, we here at Shots know that Web traffic isn't a scientific measure of personality or of quality — just of virality. Plenty of powerful, public service stories failed to make our Top 10 list for the year. That caveat delivered, here's a look at the stories that kept you clicking in 2012.
Depression: Scientists' understanding of depression has evolved dramatically in recent years, and now there are a lot of pretty nifty stories to tell about it. The most popular post of the year, by a landslide, was Jon Hamilton's fascinating tale on how the drug ketamine — also known as the club drug "Special K" — is working for people with depression who haven't responded to other antidepressants like Prozac. A related story by reporter Alix Spiegel explored serotonin's role in the illness.
Parenting: Spiegel's stories on the psychology of learning also proved to be blockbusters. In one, she looked at the different ways in which Eastern and Western cultures approach intellectual struggle in children — an enlightening follow-up to the brouhaha surrounding Amy Cha's best-selling book on being a "tiger mother." Another popular Spiegel post explored how teachers' expectations can influence how students perform in school.
The year's third most popular post was also of interest to parents: a news story on the American Academy of Pediatrics' conclusion that the benefits of circumcision clearly outweigh any risks to newborn boys — a major policy shift for the organization. And many of you were intrigued by Patti Neighmond's report on research suggesting that arguing with their parents can have long-term benefits for teens.
Odds And Ends: On Shots, we like to blend the serious with the droll, and looking at our list of the top 10 most-read posts this year, it looks like our readers do, too. In 2012, we investigated how pronouns can shape dating success, and lifted the lid on the colors and shapes in the toilet.
Finally, evolutionary explanations remain a tantalizing lens for the present, not to mention the past, as demonstrated by posts on the advantages of the runner's high and on doctors' interest in the paleo diet. If you're hungry for more posts on the paleo diet and meat, stay tuned for the year in review on our sister blog, The Salt, coming Tuesday.