A Monte Carlo evaluation of weighted community detection algorithms

Kathleen M. Gates, Teague Henry, Doug Steinley, Damien A. Fair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The past decade has been marked with a proliferation of community detection algorithms that aim to organize nodes (e.g., individuals, brain regions, variables) into modular structures that indicate subgroups, clusters, or communities. Motivated by the emergence of big data across many fields of inquiry, these methodological developments have primarily focused on the detection of communities of nodes from matrices that are very large. However, it remains unknown if the algorithms can reliably detect communities in smaller graph sizes (i.e., 1000 nodes and fewer) which are commonly used in brain research. More importantly, these algorithms have predominantly been tested only on binary or sparse count matrices and it remains unclear the degree to which the algorithms can recover community structure for different types of matrices, such as the often used cross-correlation matrices representing functional connectivity across predefined brain regions. Of the publicly available approaches for weighted graphs that can detect communities in graph sizes of at least 1000, prior research has demonstrated that Newman’s spectral approach (i.e., Leading Eigenvalue), Walktrap, Fast Modularity, the Louvain method (i.e., multilevel community method), Label Propagation, and Infomap all recover communities exceptionally well in certain circumstances. The purpose of the present Monte Carlo simulation study is to test these methods across a large number of conditions, including varied graph sizes and types of matrix (sparse count, correlation, and reflected Euclidean distance), to identify which algorithm is optimal for specific types of data matrices. The results indicate that when the data are in the form of sparse count networks (such as those seen in diffusion tensor imaging), Label Propagation and Walktrap surfaced as the most reliable methods for community detection. For dense, weighted networks such as correlation matrices capturing functional connectivity, Walktrap consistently outperformed the other approaches for recovering communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number45
JournalFrontiers in Neuroinformatics
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - Nov 10 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Gates, Henry, Steinley and Fair.


  • Community detection
  • Functional connectivity
  • Functional mri
  • Modules
  • Monte carlo simulation


Dive into the research topics of 'A Monte Carlo evaluation of weighted community detection algorithms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this