The basis of easy controllability in Boolean networks

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14 Scopus citations


Effective control of biological systems can often be achieved through the control of a surprisingly small number of distinct variables. We bring clarity to such results using the formalism of Boolean dynamical networks, analyzing the effectiveness of external control in selecting a desired final state when that state is among the original attractors of the dynamics. Analyzing 49 existing biological network models, we find strong numerical evidence that the average number of nodes that must be forced scales logarithmically with the number of original attractors. This suggests that biological networks may be typically easy to control even when the number of interacting components is large. We provide a theoretical explanation of the scaling by separating controlling nodes into three types: those that act as inputs, those that distinguish among attractors, and any remaining nodes. We further identify characteristics of dynamics that can invalidate this scaling, and speculate about how this relates more broadly to non-biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5227
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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