Efficient communication over complex dynamical networks: The role of matrix non-normality

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Science Advances  27 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 22, eaba2282
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2282


In both natural and engineered systems, communication often occurs dynamically over networks ranging from highly structured grids to largely disordered graphs. To use, or comprehend the use of, networks as efficient communication media requires understanding of how they propagate and transform information in the face of noise. Here, we develop a framework that enables us to examine how network structure, noise, and interference between consecutive packets jointly determine transmission performance in complex networks governed by linear dynamics. Mathematically, normal networks, which can be decomposed into separate low-dimensional information channels, suffer greatly from readout noise. Most details of their wiring have no impact on transmission quality. Non-normal networks, however, can largely cancel the effect of noise by transiently amplifying select input dimensions while ignoring others, resulting in higher net information throughput. Our theory could inform the design of new communication networks, as well as the optimal use of existing ones.

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