The isoperimetric profile of a graph is a function that measures, for an integer k, the size of the smallest edge boundary over all sets of vertices of size k. We observe a connection between isoperimetric profiles and computational complexity. We illustrate this connection by an example from communication complexity, but our main result is in algebraic complexity.

We prove a sharp super-polynomial separation between monotone arithmetic circuits and monotone arithmetic branching programs. This shows that the classical simulation of arithmetic circuits by arithmetic branching programs by Valiant, Skyum, Berkowitz, and Rackoff (1983) cannot be improved, as long as it preserves monotonicity.

A key ingredient in the proof is an accurate analysis of the isoperimetric profile of finite full binary trees. We show that the isoperimetric profile of a full binary tree constantly fluctuates between one and almost the depth of the tree.