Synchronization and clustering are well studied in the context of networks of oscillators, such as neuronal networks. However, this relationship is notoriously difficult to approach mathematically in natural, complex networks. Here, we aim to understand it in a canonical framework, using complex quadratic node dynamics, coupled in networks that we call complex quadratic networks (CQNs). We review previously defined extensions of the Mandelbrot and Julia sets for networks, focusing on the behavior of the node-wise projections of these sets and on describing the phenomena of node clustering and synchronization. One aspect of our work consists of exploring ties between a network’s connectivity and its ensemble dynamics by identifying mechanisms that lead to clusters of nodes exhibiting identical or different Mandelbrot sets. Based on our preliminary analytical results (obtained primarily in two-dimensional networks), we propose that clustering is strongly determined by the network connectivity patterns, with the geometry of these clusters further controlled by the connection weights. Here, we first explore this relationship further, using examples of synthetic networks, increasing in size (from 3, to 5, to 20 nodes). We then illustrate the potential practical implications of synchronization in an existing set of whole brain, tractography-based networks obtained from 197 human subjects using diffusion tensor imaging. Understanding the similarities to how these concepts apply to CQNs contributes to our understanding of universal principles in dynamic networks and may help extend theoretical results to natural, complex systems.

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