Motif Counting in Preferential Attachment Graphs

Authors Jan Dreier , Peter Rossmanith

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Jan Dreier
  • Department of Computer Science, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Peter Rossmanith
  • Department of Computer Science, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

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Jan Dreier and Peter Rossmanith. Motif Counting in Preferential Attachment Graphs. In 39th IARCS Annual Conference on Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science (FSTTCS 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 150, pp. 13:1-13:14, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


Network motifs are small patterns that occur in a network significantly more often than expected. They have gathered a lot of interest, as they may describe functional dependencies of complex networks and yield insights into their basic structure [Milo et al., 2002]. Therefore, a large amount of work went into the development of methods for network motif detection in complex networks [Kashtan et al., 2004; Schreiber and Schwöbbermeyer, 2005; Chen et al., 2006; Wernicke, 2006; Grochow and Kellis, 2007; Alon et al., 2008; Omidi et al., 2009]. The underlying problem of motif detection is to count how often a copy of a pattern graph H occurs in a target graph G. This problem is #W[1]-hard when parameterized by the size of H [Flum and Grohe, 2004] and cannot be solved in time f(|H|)n^o(|H|) under #ETH [Chen et al., 2005]. Preferential attachment graphs [Barabási and Albert, 1999] are a very popular random graph model designed to mimic complex networks. They are constructed by a random process that iteratively adds vertices and attaches them preferentially to vertices that already have high degree. Preferential attachment has been empirically observed in real growing networks [Newman, 2001; Jeong et al., 2003]. We show that one can count subgraph copies of a graph H in the preferential attachment graph G^n_m (with n vertices and nm edges, where m is usually a small constant) in expected time f(|H|) m^O(|H|^6) log(n)^O(|H|^12) n. This means the motif counting problem can be solved in expected quasilinear FPT time on preferential attachment graphs with respect to the parameters |H| and m. In particular, for fixed H and m the expected run time is O(n^(1+epsilon)) for every epsilon>0. Our results are obtained using new concentration bounds for degrees in preferential attachment graphs. Assume the (total) degree of a set of vertices at a time t of the random process is d. We show that if d is sufficiently large then the degree of the same set at a later time n is likely to be in the interval (1 +/- epsilon)d sqrt(n/t) (for epsilon > 0) for all n >= t. More specifically, the probability that this interval is left is exponentially small in d.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Parameterized complexity and exact algorithms
  • random graphs
  • motif counting
  • average case analysis
  • preferential attachment graphs


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