Accurate detection of hierarchical communities in complex networks based on nonlinear dynamical evolution

Zhao Zhuo, Shi Min Cai, Ming Tang, Ying-Cheng Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


One of the most challenging problems in network science is to accurately detect communities at distinct hierarchical scales. Most existing methods are based on structural analysis and manipulation, which are NP-hard. We articulate an alternative, dynamical evolution-based approach to the problem. The basic principle is to computationally implement a nonlinear dynamical process on all nodes in the network with a general coupling scheme, creating a networked dynamical system. Under a proper system setting and with an adjustable control parameter, the community structure of the network would "come out" or emerge naturally from the dynamical evolution of the system. As the control parameter is systematically varied, the community hierarchies at different scales can be revealed. As a concrete example of this general principle, we exploit clustered synchronization as a dynamical mechanism through which the hierarchical community structure can be uncovered. In particular, for quite arbitrary choices of the nonlinear nodal dynamics and coupling scheme, decreasing the coupling parameter from the global synchronization regime, in which the dynamical states of all nodes are perfectly synchronized, can lead to a weaker type of synchronization organized as clusters. We demonstrate the existence of optimal choices of the coupling parameter for which the synchronization clusters encode accurate information about the hierarchical community structure of the network. We test and validate our method using a standard class of benchmark modular networks with two distinct hierarchies of communities and a number of empirical networks arising from the real world. Our method is computationally extremely efficient, eliminating completely the NP-hard difficulty associated with previous methods. The basic principle of exploiting dynamical evolution to uncover hidden community organizations at different scales represents a "game-change" type of approach to addressing the problem of community detection in complex networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043119
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Applied Mathematics

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