Choi, Myung Jin, Tan, Vincent Y. F., Anandkumar, Animashree, Willsky, Alan S.

We study the problem of learning a latent tree graphical model where samples are available only from a subset of variables. We propose two consistent and computationally efficient algorithms for learning minimal latent trees, that is, trees without any redundant hidden nodes. Unlike many existing methods, the observed nodes (or variables) are not constrained to be leaf nodes. Our first algorithm, recursive grouping, builds the latent tree recursively by identifying sibling groups using so-called information distances. One of the main contributions of this work is our second algorithm, which we refer to as CLGrouping. CLGrouping starts with a pre-processing procedure in which a tree over the observed variables is constructed. This global step groups the observed nodes that are likely to be close to each other in the true latent tree, thereby guiding subsequent recursive grouping (or equivalent procedures) on much smaller subsets of variables. This results in more accurate and efficient learning of latent trees. We also present regularized versions of our algorithms that learn latent tree approximations of arbitrary distributions. We compare the proposed algorithms to other methods by performing extensive numerical experiments on various latent tree graphical models such as hidden Markov models and star graphs. In addition, we demonstrate the applicability of our methods on real-world datasets by modeling the dependency structure of monthly stock returns in the S&P index and of the words in the 20 newsgroups dataset.

Bach, Francis R., Jordan, Michael I.

We present a generalization of independent component analysis (ICA), where instead of looking for a linear transform that makes the data components independent, we look for a transform that makes the data components well fit by a tree-structured graphical model. Treating the problem as a semiparametric statistical problem, we show that the optimal transform is found by minimizing a contrast function based on mutual information, a function that directly extends the contrast function used for classical ICA. We provide two approximations of this contrast function, one using kernel density estimation, and another using kernel generalized variance. This tree-dependent component analysis framework leads naturally to an efficient general multivariate density estimation technique where only bivariate density estimation needs to be performed.

Kirshner, Sergey, Smyth, Padhraic, Robertson, Andrew

We consider the problem of modeling discrete-valued vector time series data using extensions of Chow-Liu tree models to capture both dependencies across time and dependencies across variables. Conditional Chow-Liu tree models are introduced, as an extension to standard Chow-Liu trees, for modeling conditional rather than joint densities. We describe learning algorithms for such models and show how they can be used to learn parsimonious representations for the output distributions in hidden Markov models. These models are applied to the important problem of simulating and forecasting daily precipitation occurrence for networks of rain stations. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the models, we compare their performance versus a number of alternatives using historical precipitation data from Southwestern Australia and the Western United States. We illustrate how the structure and parameters of the models can be used to provide an improved meteorological interpretation of such data.

Liu, Han, Xu, Min, Gu, Haijie, Gupta, Anupam, Lafferty, John, Wasserman, Larry

We study graph estimation and density estimation in high dimensions, using a family of density estimators based on forest structured undirected graphical models. For density estimation, we do not assume the true distribution corresponds to a forest; rather, we form kernel density estimates of the bivariate and univariate marginals, and apply Kruskal's algorithm to estimate the optimal forest on held out data. We prove an oracle inequality on the excess risk of the resulting estimator relative to the risk of the best forest. For graph estimation, we consider the problem of estimating forests with restricted tree sizes. We prove that finding a maximum weight spanning forest with restricted tree size is NP-hard, and develop an approximation algorithm for this problem. Viewing the tree size as a complexity parameter, we then select a forest using data splitting, and prove bounds on excess risk and structure selection consistency of the procedure. Experiments with simulated data and microarray data indicate that the methods are a practical alternative to Gaussian graphical models.

Gaussian Graphical Models (GGMs) or Gauss Markov random fields are widely used in many applications, and the trade-off between the modeling capacity and the efficiency of learning and inference has been an important research problem. In this paper, we study the family of GGMs with small feedback vertex sets (FVSs), where an FVS is a set of nodes whose removal breaks all the cycles. Exact inference such as computing the marginal distributions and the partition function has complexity $O(k^{2}n)$ using message-passing algorithms, where k is the size of the FVS, and n is the total number of nodes. We propose efficient structure learning algorithms for two cases: 1) All nodes are observed, which is useful in modeling social or flight networks where the FVS nodes often correspond to a small number of high-degree nodes, or hubs, while the rest of the networks is modeled by a tree. Regardless of the maximum degree, without knowing the full graph structure, we can exactly compute the maximum likelihood estimate in $O(kn^2+n^2\log n)$ if the FVS is known or in polynomial time if the FVS is unknown but has bounded size. 2) The FVS nodes are latent variables, where structure learning is equivalent to decomposing a inverse covariance matrix (exactly or approximately) into the sum of a tree-structured matrix and a low-rank matrix. By incorporating efficient inference into the learning steps, we can obtain a learning algorithm using alternating low-rank correction with complexity $O(kn^{2}+n^{2}\log n)$ per iteration. We also perform experiments using both synthetic data as well as real data of flight delays to demonstrate the modeling capacity with FVSs of various sizes. We show that empirically the family of GGMs of size $O(\log n)$ strikes a good balance between the modeling capacity and the efficiency.