Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Graphical and Markov models

Conditional independence properties in compound multinomial distributions

Participant : Jean-Baptiste Durand.

Joint work with: Pierre Fernique (Inria, Virtual Plants) and Jean Peyhardi (Université de Montpellier).

We developed a unifying view of two families of multinomial distributions: the singular – for modeling univariate categorical data – and the non-singular – for modeling multivariate count data. In the latter model, we introduced sum-compound multinomial distributions that encompass re-parameterization of non-singular multinomial and negative multinomial distributions. The estimation properties within these compound distributions were obtained, thus generalizing know results in univariate distributions to the multivariate case. These distributions were used to address the inference of discrete-state models for tree-structured data. In particular, they were used to introduce parametric generation distributions in Markov-tree models [66].

Change-point models for tree-structured data

Participant : Jean-Baptiste Durand.

Joint work with: Pierre Fernique (Inria) and Yann Guédon (CIRAD), Inria Virtual Plants.

In the context of plant growth modelling, methods to identify subtrees of a tree or forest with similar attributes have been developed. They rely either on hidden Markov modelling or multiple change-point approaches. The latter are well-developed in the context of sequence analysis, but their extensions to tree-structured data are not straightforward. Their advantage on hidden Markov models is to relax the strong constraints regarding dependencies induced by parametric distributions and local parent-children dependencies. Heuristic approaches for change-point detection in trees were proposed and applied to the analysis of patchiness patterns (consisting of canopies made of clumps of either vegetative or flowering botanical units) in mango trees [43].

Hidden Markov models for the analysis of eye movements

Participants : Jean-Baptiste Durand, Brice Olivier.

This research theme is supported by a LabEx PERSYVAL-Lab project-team grant.

Joint work with: Marianne Clausel (LJK) Anne Guérin-Dugué (GIPSA-lab) and Benoit Lemaire (Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neurocognition)

In the last years, GIPSA-lab has developed computational models of information search in web-like materials, using data from both eye-tracking and electroencephalograms (EEGs). These data were obtained from experiments, in which subjects had to make some kinds of press reviews. In such tasks, reading process and decision making are closely related. Statistical analysis of such data aims at deciphering underlying dependency structures in these processes. Hidden Markov models (HMMs) have been used on eye movement series to infer phases in the reading process that can be interpreted as steps in the cognitive processes leading to decision. In HMMs, each phase is associated with a state of the Markov chain. The states are observed indirectly though eye-movements. Our approach was inspired by Simola et al. (2008), but we used hidden semi-Markov models for better characterization of phase length distributions. The estimated HMM highlighted contrasted reading strategies (ie, state transitions), with both individual and document-related variability. However, the characteristics of eye movements within each phase tended to be poorly discriminated. As a result, high uncertainty in the phase changes arose, and it could be difficult to relate phases to known patterns in EEGs.

This is why, as part of Brice Olivier’s PhD thesis, we are developing integrated models coupling EEG and eye movements within one single HMM for better identification of the phases. Here, the coupling should incorporate some delay between the transitions in both (EEG and eye-movement) chains, since EEG patterns associated to cognitive processes occur lately with respect to eye-movement phases. Moreover, EEGs and scanpaths were recorded with different time resolutions, so that some resampling scheme must be added into the model, for the sake of synchronizing both processes.

To begin with, we first proved why HMM would be the best option in order to conduct this analysis and what could be the alternatives. A brief state of the art was made on models similar to HMMs. However, since our data is very specific, we needed to make use of unsupervised graphical generative models for the analysis of sequences which would keep a deep meaning. It resulted that Hidden semi-Markov model (HSMM) was the most powerful tool satisfying all our needs. Indeed, a HSMM is characterized by meaningful parameters such as an initial distribution, transition distributions, emission distributions and sojourn distributions, which allows us to directly characterize a reading strategy. Second, we found and improved an existing implementation of such a model. After searching for libraries to make inference in HSMM, the Vplants library embedded in the OpenAlea software turned out to be the most viable solution regarding the functionalities, though it was still incomplete. Consequently, we proposed improvements to this library and added functions in order to boost the likelihood of the data. This lead us to also propose a new library included in that software which is specific at the analysis of eye movements. Third, in order to improve and validate the interpretation of the reading strategies, we calculated indicators specific to each reading strategy. Fourth, since the parameters obtained from the model suggested individual and text variability, we first investigated text clustering to reduce the variability of the model. In order to do this, we supervised a group of 6 students to explore the text clustering component with the mission of clustering the texts by evolution of the semantic similarity throughout text. We therefore explored different methods for time series clustering and we retained the usage of Ascendant Hierarchical Clustering (AHC) using the Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) metric, which allows global dynamics of the time series to be captured, but not local dynamics. Plus, we preferred the simplicity and good understanding of the results using that method. Therefore, we deduced three text profiles giving meaning to the evolution of the semantic similarity: a step profile, a ramp profile, and a saw profile. With that new information in hand, we are now able to decompose our model over text profiles and hence, reduce its variability.

As discussed in the previous section, our work is focused on the standalone analysis of the eye-movements. We are currently polishing this phase of work. The common work and the goal for this coming year is to develop and implement a model for jointly analyzing eye-movements and EEGs in order to improve the discrimination of the reading strategies.

Lossy compression of tree structures

Participant : Jean-Baptiste Durand.

Joint work with: Christophe Godin (Inria, Virtual Plants) and Romain Azais (Inria BIGS)

In a previous work [79], a method to compress tree structures and to quantify their degree of self-nestedness was developed. This method is based on the detection of isomorphic subtrees in a given tree and on the construction of a DAG (Directed Acyclic Graph), equivalent to the original tree, where a given subtree class is represented only once (compression is based on the suppression of structural redundancies in the original tree). In the lossless compressed graph, every node representing a particular subtree in the original tree has exactly the same height as its corresponding node in the original tree. A lossy version of the algorithm consists in coding the nearest self-nested tree embedded in the initial tree. Indeed, finding the nearest self-nested tree of a structure without more assumptions is conjectured to be an NP-complete or NP-hard problem. We obtained new theoretical results on the combinatorics of self-nested structures [60]. We improved this lossy compression method by computing a self-nested reduction of a tree that better approximates the initial tree. The algorithm has polynomial time complexity for trees with bounded outdegree. This approximation relies on an indel edit distance that allows (recursive) insertion and deletion of leaf vertices only. We showed using a simulated dataset that the error rate of this lossy compression method is always better than the loss based on the nearest embedded self-nestedness tree [79] while the compression rates are equivalent. This procedure is also a keystone in our new topological clustering algorithm for trees. Perspectives of improving the time complexity of our algorithm include taking profit from one of its byproduct, which could be used as an indicator of both the number of potential candidates to explore and of the proximity of the tree to the nearest self-nested tree.

Learning the inherent probabilistic graphical structure of metadata

Participants : Thibaud Rahier, Stephane Girard, Florence Forbes.

Joint work with: Sylvain Marié, Schneider Electric.

The quality of prediction and inference on temporal data can be significantly improved by taking advantage of the associated metadata. However, metadata are often only partially structured and may contain missing values. In the context of T. Rahier's PhD with Schneider Electric, we first considered the problem of learning the inherent probabilistic graphical structure of metadata, which has two main benefits: (i) graphical models are very flexible and therefore enable the fusion of different types of data together (ii) the learned graphical model can be interrogated to perform tasks on metadata alone: variable clustering, conditional independence discovery or missing data replenishment. Bayesian Network (and more generally Probabilistic Graphical Model) structure learning is a tremendous mathematical challenge, that involves a NP-Hard optimisation problem. In the past year, we have explored many approaches to tackle this issue, and begun to develop a tailor-made algorithm, that exploits dependencies typically present in metadata, and that significantly speeds up the structure learning task and increases the chance of finding the optimal structure.

Robust Graph estimation

Participants : Karina Ashurbekova, Florence Forbes.

Joint work with: Sophie Achard, CNRS, Gipsa-lab.

In the face of increasingly high dimensional data and of trying to understand the dependency/association present in the data the literature on graphical modelling is growing rapidly and covers a range of applications (from bioinformatics e.g gene expression data to document modelling). A major limitation of recent work on using the (standard) Student t distribution for robust graphical modelling is the lack of independence and conditional independence of the Student t distribution, and estimation in this context (with the standard student t) is very difficult. We propose to develop and assess a generalized Student t from a new family (which has independence and conditional independence as special properties) for the general purpose of graphical modelling in high dimensional settings. Its main characteristic is to include multivariate heavy-tailed distributions with variable marginal amounts of tailweight that allow more complex dependencies than the standard case. We target an application to brain connectivity data for which standard Gaussian graphical models have been applied. Brain connectivity analysis consists in the study of multivariate time series representing local dynamics at each of multiple sites or sources throughout the whole human brain while functioning using for example functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The acquisition is difficult and often spikes are observed due to the movement of the subjects inside the scanner. In the case of identifying Gaussian graphical models, the glasso technique has been developed for estimating sparse graphs. However, this method can be severely impacted by the inclusion of only a few contaminated values, such as spikes that commonly occur in fMRI time series, and the resulting graph has the potential to contain false positive edges. Therefore, our goal was to assess the performance of more robust methods on such data.