A major inference task in Bayesian networks is explaining why some variables are observed in their particular states using a set of target variables. Existing methods for solving this problem often generate explanations that are either too simple (underspecified) or too complex (overspecified). In this paper, we introduce a method called Most Relevant Explanation (MRE) which finds a partial instantiation of the target variables that maximizes the generalized Bayes factor (GBF) as the best explanation for the given evidence. Our study shows that GBF has several theoretical properties that enable MRE to automatically identify the most relevant target variables in forming its explanation. In particular, conditional Bayes factor (CBF), defined as the GBF of a new explanation conditioned on an existing explanation, provides a soft measure on the degree of relevance of the variables in the new explanation in explaining the evidence given the existing explanation. As a result, MRE is able to automatically prune less relevant variables from its explanation. We also show that CBF is able to capture well the explaining-away phenomenon that is often represented in Bayesian networks. Moreover, we define two dominance relations between the candidate solutions and use the relations to generalize MRE to find a set of top explanations that is both diverse and representative. Case studies on several benchmark diagnostic Bayesian networks show that MRE is often able to find explanatory hypotheses that are not only precise but also concise.

Greenlaw, Keelin, Szefer, Elena, Graham, Jinko, Lesperance, Mary, Nathoo, Farouk S.

Motivation: Recent advances in technology for brain imaging and high-throughput genotyping have motivated studies examining the influence of genetic variation on brain structure. Wang et al. (Bioinformatics, 2012) have developed an approach for the analysis of imaging genomic studies using penalized multi-task regression with regularization based on a novel group $l_{2,1}$-norm penalty which encourages structured sparsity at both the gene level and SNP level. While incorporating a number of useful features, the proposed method only furnishes a point estimate of the regression coefficients; techniques for conducting statistical inference are not provided. A new Bayesian method is proposed here to overcome this limitation. Results: We develop a Bayesian hierarchical modeling formulation where the posterior mode corresponds to the estimator proposed by Wang et al. (Bioinformatics, 2012), and an approach that allows for full posterior inference including the construction of interval estimates for the regression parameters. We show that the proposed hierarchical model can be expressed as a three-level Gaussian scale mixture and this representation facilitates the use of a Gibbs sampling algorithm for posterior simulation. Simulation studies demonstrate that the interval estimates obtained using our approach achieve adequate coverage probabilities that outperform those obtained from the nonparametric bootstrap. Our proposed methodology is applied to the analysis of neuroimaging and genetic data collected as part of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), and this analysis of the ADNI cohort demonstrates clearly the value added of incorporating interval estimation beyond only point estimation when relating SNPs to brain imaging endophenotypes.

Ensembles of climate models are commonly used to improve climate predictions and assess the uncertainties associated with them. Weighting the models according to their performances holds the promise of further improving their predictions. Here, we use an ensemble of decadal climate predictions to demonstrate the ability of sequential learning algorithms (SLAs) to reduce the forecast errors and reduce the uncertainties. Three different SLAs are considered, and their performances are compared with those of an equally weighted ensemble, a linear regression and the climatology. Predictions of four different variables--the surface temperature, the zonal and meridional wind, and pressure--are considered. The spatial distributions of the performances are presented, and the statistical significance of the improvements achieved by the SLAs is tested. Based on the performances of the SLAs, we propose one to be highly suitable for the improvement of decadal climate predictions.

Hayes-Roth, Barbara (Lifelike Solutions) | Saker, Rami (Lifelike Solutions) | Amano, Karen

Virtual patients are viewed as a cost-effective alternative to standardized patients for role-play training of clinical interviewing skills. However, training studies produce mixed results. Students give high ratings to practice with virtual patients and feel more self-confident, but they show little improvement in objective skills. This confidence-competence gap matches a common cognitive illusion, in which students overestimate the effectiveness of training that is too easy. We hypothesize that cost-effective training requires virtual patients that emphasize functional and psychological fidelity over physical fidelity. We discuss 12 design decisions aimed at cost-effective training and their application in virtual patients for practicing brief intervention in alcohol abuse. Our STAR Workshop includes 3 such patients and a virtual coach. A controlled experiment evaluated STAR and compared it to an easier E-Book and no-training Control. E-Book subjects displayed the illusion, giving high ratings to their training and self-confidence, but performing no better than Control subjects on skills. STAR subjects gave high ratings to their training and self-confidence and scored better higher than E-Book or Control subjects on skills. We invite other researchers to use the underlying Imp technology to build virtual patients for their own work.