Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33947060
Link to DOI – 10.3390/e23050552
Entropy (Basel) 2021 Apr; 23(5):
Latent Variable Models (LVMs) are well established tools to accomplish a range of different data processing tasks. Applications exploit the ability of LVMs to identify latent data structure in order to improve data (e.g., through denoising) or to estimate the relation between latent causes and measurements in medical data. In the latter case, LVMs in the form of noisy-OR Bayes nets represent the standard approach to relate binary latents (which represent diseases) to binary observables (which represent symptoms). Bayes nets with binary representation for symptoms may be perceived as a coarse approximation, however. In practice, real disease symptoms can range from absent over mild and intermediate to very severe. Therefore, using diseases/symptoms relations as motivation, we here ask how standard noisy-OR Bayes nets can be generalized to incorporate continuous observables, e.g., variables that model symptom severity in an interval from healthy to pathological. This transition from binary to interval data poses a number of challenges including a transition from a Bernoulli to a Beta distribution to model symptom statistics. While noisy-OR-like approaches are constrained to model how causes determine the observables’ mean values, the use of Beta distributions additionally provides (and also requires) that the causes determine the observables’ variances. To meet the challenges emerging when generalizing from Bernoulli to Beta distributed observables, we investigate a novel LVM that uses a maximum non-linearity to model how the latents determine means and variances of the observables. Given the model and the goal of likelihood maximization, we then leverage recent theoretical results to derive an Expectation Maximization (EM) algorithm for the suggested LVM. We further show how variational EM can be used to efficiently scale the approach to large networks. Experimental results finally illustrate the efficacy of the proposed model using both synthetic and real data sets. Importantly, we show that the model produces reliable results in estimating causes using proofs of concepts and first tests based on real medical data and on images.