On the von Neumann entropy of graphs

Giorgia Minello, Luca Rossi, Andrea Torsello

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The von Neumann entropy of a graph is a spectral complexity measure that has recently found applications in complex networks analysis and pattern recognition. Two variants of the von Neumann entropy exist based on the graph Laplacian and normalized graph Laplacian, respectively. Due to its computational complexity, previous works have proposed to approximate the von Neumann entropy, effectively reducing it to the computation of simple node degree statistics. Unfortunately, a number of issues surrounding the von Neumann entropy remain unsolved to date, including the interpretation of this spectral measure in terms of structural patterns, understanding the relation between its two variants and evaluating the quality of the corresponding approximations. In this article, we aim to answer these questions by first analysing and comparing the quadratic approximations of the two variants and then performing an extensive set of experiments on both synthetic and real-world graphs. We find that (1) the two entropies lead to the emergence of similar structures, but with some significant differences; (2) the correlation between them ranges from weakly positive to strongly negative, depending on the topology of the underlying graph; (3) the quadratic approximations fail to capture the presence of non-trivial structural patterns that seem to influence the value of the exact entropies; and (4) the quality of the approximations, as well as which variant of the von Neumann entropy is better approximated, depends on the topology of the underlying graph.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)491-514
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Complex Networks
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Graph; entropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Control and Optimization
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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