An essential step in understanding the function of sensory nervous systems isto characterize as accurately as possible the stimulus-response function (SRF) of the neurons that relay and process sensory information. Oneincreasingly common experimental approach is to present a rapidly varying complex stimulus to the animal while recording the responses ofone or more neurons, and then to directly estimate a functional transformation of the input that accounts for the neuronal firing. The estimation techniques usually employed, such as Wiener filtering or other correlation-based estimation of the Wiener or Volterra kernels, are equivalent to maximum likelihood estimation in a Gaussian-output-noise regression model. We explore the use of Bayesian evidence-optimization techniques to condition these estimates. We show that by learning hyperparameters thatcontrol the smoothness and sparsity of the transfer function it is possible to improve dramatically the quality of SRF estimates, as measured by their success in predicting responses to novel input.
Exact inference in the linear regression model with spike and slab priors is often intractable. Expectation propagation (EP) can be used for approximate inference. However, the regular sequential form of EP (R-EP) may fail to converge in this model when the size of the training set is very small. As an alternative, we propose a provably convergent EP algorithm (PC-EP). PC-EP is proved to minimize an energy function which, under some constraints, is bounded from below and whose stationary points coincide with the solution of R-EP. Experiments with synthetic data indicate that when R-EP does not converge, the approximation generated by PC-EP is often better. By contrast, when R-EP converges, both methods perform similarly.
We consider the problem of speaker diarization, the problem of segmenting an audio recording of a meeting into temporal segments corresponding to individual speakers. The problem is rendered particularly difficult by the fact that we are not allowed to assume knowledge of the number of people participating in the meeting. To address this problem, we take a Bayesian nonparametric approach to speaker diarization that builds on the hierarchical Dirichlet process hidden Markov model (HDP-HMM) of Teh et al. [J. Amer. Statist. Assoc. 101 (2006) 1566--1581]. Although the basic HDP-HMM tends to over-segment the audio data---creating redundant states and rapidly switching among them---we describe an augmented HDP-HMM that provides effective control over the switching rate. We also show that this augmentation makes it possible to treat emission distributions nonparametrically. To scale the resulting architecture to realistic diarization problems, we develop a sampling algorithm that employs a truncated approximation of the Dirichlet process to jointly resample the full state sequence, greatly improving mixing rates. Working with a benchmark NIST data set, we show that our Bayesian nonparametric architecture yields state-of-the-art speaker diarization results.
We address the problem of learning topic hierarchies from data. The model selection problem in this domain is daunting--which of the large collection of possible trees to use? We take a Bayesian approach, generating anappropriate prior via a distribution on partitions that we refer to as the nested Chinese restaurant process. This nonparametric prior allows arbitrarilylarge branching factors and readily accommodates growing data collections. We build a hierarchical topic model by combining this prior with a likelihood that is based on a hierarchical variant of latent Dirichlet allocation. We illustrate our approach on simulated data and with an application to the modeling of NIPS abstracts.
The distance dependent Chinese restaurant process (ddCRP) was recently introduced to accommodate random partitions of non-exchangeable data. The ddCRP clusters data in a biased way: each data point is more likely to be clustered with other data that are near it in an external sense. This paper examines the ddCRP in a spatial setting with the goal of natural image segmentation. We explore the biases of the spatial ddCRP model and propose a novel hierarchical extension better suited for producing "human-like" segmentations. We then study the sensitivity of the models to various distance and appearance hyperparameters, and provide the first rigorous comparison of nonparametric Bayesian models in the image segmentation domain. On unsupervised image segmentation, we demonstrate that similar performance to existing nonparametric Bayesian models is possible with substantially simpler models and algorithms.