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Methodology (stat.ME)

Wed, 17 May 2023

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1.Causal Discovery with Missing Data in a Multicentric Clinical Study

Authors:Alessio Zanga, Alice Bernasconi, Peter J. F. Lucas, Hanny Pijnenborg, Casper Reijnen, Marco Scutari, Fabio Stella

Abstract: Causal inference for testing clinical hypotheses from observational data presents many difficulties because the underlying data-generating model and the associated causal graph are not usually available. Furthermore, observational data may contain missing values, which impact the recovery of the causal graph by causal discovery algorithms: a crucial issue often ignored in clinical studies. In this work, we use data from a multi-centric study on endometrial cancer to analyze the impact of different missingness mechanisms on the recovered causal graph. This is achieved by extending state-of-the-art causal discovery algorithms to exploit expert knowledge without sacrificing theoretical soundness. We validate the recovered graph with expert physicians, showing that our approach finds clinically-relevant solutions. Finally, we discuss the goodness of fit of our graph and its consistency from a clinical decision-making perspective using graphical separation to validate causal pathways.

2.Functional Adaptive Double-Sparsity Estimator for Functional Linear Regression Model with Multiple Functional Covariates

Authors:Cheng Cao, Jiguo Cao, Hailiang Wang, Kwok-Leung Tsui, Xinyue Li

Abstract: Sensor devices have been increasingly used in engineering and health studies recently, and the captured multi-dimensional activity and vital sign signals can be studied in association with health outcomes to inform public health. The common approach is the scalar-on-function regression model, in which health outcomes are the scalar responses while high-dimensional sensor signals are the functional covariates, but how to effectively interpret results becomes difficult. In this study, we propose a new Functional Adaptive Double-Sparsity (FadDoS) estimator based on functional regularization of sparse group lasso with multiple functional predictors, which can achieve global sparsity via functional variable selection and local sparsity via zero-subinterval identification within coefficient functions. We prove that the FadDoS estimator converges at a bounded rate and satisfies the oracle property under mild conditions. Extensive simulation studies confirm the theoretical properties and exhibit excellent performances compared to existing approaches. Application to a Kinect sensor study that utilized an advanced motion sensing device tracking human multiple joint movements and conducted among community-dwelling elderly demonstrates how the FadDoS estimator can effectively characterize the detailed association between joint movements and physical health assessments. The proposed method is not only effective in Kinect sensor analysis but also applicable to broader fields, where multi-dimensional sensor signals are collected simultaneously, to expand the use of sensor devices in health studies and facilitate sensor data analysis.

3.Nonparametric estimation of the interventional disparity indirect effect among the exposed

Authors:Helene C. W. Rytgaard, Amalie Lykkemark Møller, Thomas A. Gerds

Abstract: In situations with non-manipulable exposures, interventions can be targeted to shift the distribution of intermediate variables between exposure groups to define interventional disparity indirect effects. In this work, we present a theoretical study of identification and nonparametric estimation of the interventional disparity indirect effect among the exposed. The targeted estimand is intended for applications examining the outcome risk among an exposed population for which the risk is expected to be reduced if the distribution of a mediating variable was changed by a (hypothetical) policy or health intervention that targets the exposed population specifically. We derive the nonparametric efficient influence function, study its double robustness properties and present a targeted minimum loss-based estimation (TMLE) procedure. All theoretical results and algorithms are provided for both uncensored and right-censored survival outcomes. With offset in the ongoing discussion of the interpretation of non-manipulable exposures, we discuss relevant interpretations of the estimand under different sets of assumptions of no unmeasured confounding and provide a comparison of our estimand to other related estimands within the framework of interventional (disparity) effects. Small-sample performance and double robustness properties of our estimation procedure are investigated and illustrated in a simulation study.

4.Evaluating Dynamic Conditional Quantile Treatment Effects with Applications in Ridesharing

Authors:Ting Li, Chengchun Shi, Zhaohua Lu, Yi Li, Hongtu Zhu

Abstract: Many modern tech companies, such as Google, Uber, and Didi, utilize online experiments (also known as A/B testing) to evaluate new policies against existing ones. While most studies concentrate on average treatment effects, situations with skewed and heavy-tailed outcome distributions may benefit from alternative criteria, such as quantiles. However, assessing dynamic quantile treatment effects (QTE) remains a challenge, particularly when dealing with data from ride-sourcing platforms that involve sequential decision-making across time and space. In this paper, we establish a formal framework to calculate QTE conditional on characteristics independent of the treatment. Under specific model assumptions, we demonstrate that the dynamic conditional QTE (CQTE) equals the sum of individual CQTEs across time, even though the conditional quantile of cumulative rewards may not necessarily equate to the sum of conditional quantiles of individual rewards. This crucial insight significantly streamlines the estimation and inference processes for our target causal estimand. We then introduce two varying coefficient decision process (VCDP) models and devise an innovative method to test the dynamic CQTE. Moreover, we expand our approach to accommodate data from spatiotemporal dependent experiments and examine both conditional quantile direct and indirect effects. To showcase the practical utility of our method, we apply it to three real-world datasets from a ride-sourcing platform. Theoretical findings and comprehensive simulation studies further substantiate our proposal.

5.Exploring Uniform Finite Sample Stickiness

Authors:Susanne Ulmer, Do Tran Van, Stephan F. Huckemann

Abstract: It is well known, that Fr\'echet means on non-Euclidean spaces may exhibit nonstandard asymptotic rates depending on curvature. Even for distributions featuring standard asymptotic rates, there are non-Euclidean effects, altering finite sampling rates up to considerable sample sizes. These effects can be measured by the variance modulation function proposed by Pennec (2019). Among others, in view of statistical inference, it is important to bound this function on intervals of sampling sizes. In a first step into this direction, for the special case of a K-spider we give such an interval, based only on folded moments and total probabilities of spider legs and illustrate the method by simulations.

6.Functional Connectivity: Continuous-Time Latent Factor Models for Neural Spike Trains

Authors:Meixi Chen, Martin Lysy, David Moorman, Reza Ramezan

Abstract: Modelling the dynamics of interactions in a neuronal ensemble is an important problem in functional connectivity research. One popular framework is latent factor models (LFMs), which have achieved notable success in decoding neuronal population dynamics. However, most LFMs are specified in discrete time, where the choice of bin size significantly impacts inference results. In this work, we present what is, to the best of our knowledge, the first continuous-time multivariate spike train LFM for studying neuronal interactions and functional connectivity. We present an efficient parameter inference algorithm for our biologically justifiable model which (1) scales linearly in the number of simultaneously recorded neurons and (2) bypasses time binning and related issues. Simulation studies show that parameter estimation using the proposed model is highly accurate. Applying our LFM to experimental data from a classical conditioning study on the prefrontal cortex in rats, we found that coordinated neuronal activities are affected by (1) the onset of the cue for reward delivery, and (2) the sub-region within the frontal cortex (OFC/mPFC). These findings shed new light on our understanding of cue and outcome value encoding.

7.Goodness of fit testing based on graph functionals for homgenous Erdös Renyi graphs

Authors:Barbara Brune, Jonathan Flossdorf, Carsten Jentsch

Abstract: The Erd\"os Renyi graph is a popular choice to model network data as it is parsimoniously parametrized, straightforward to interprete and easy to estimate. However, it has limited suitability in practice, since it often fails to capture crucial characteristics of real-world networks. To check the adequacy of this model, we propose a novel class of goodness-of-fit tests for homogeneous Erd\"os Renyi models against heterogeneous alternatives that allow for nonconstant edge probabilities. We allow for asymptotically dense and sparse networks. The tests are based on graph functionals that cover a broad class of network statistics for which we derive limiting distributions in a unified manner. The resulting class of asymptotic tests includes several existing tests as special cases. Further, we propose a parametric bootstrap and prove its consistency, which allows for performance improvements particularly for small network sizes and avoids the often tedious variance estimation for asymptotic tests. Moreover, we analyse the sensitivity of different goodness-of-fit test statistics that rely on popular choices of subgraphs. We evaluate the proposed class of tests and illustrate our theoretical findings by extensive simulations.