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A partial correlation screening approach for controlling the false positive rate in sparse Gaussian graphical models.

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Gaussian Graphical Models (GGMs) are extensively used in many research areas, such as genomics, proteomics, neuroimaging, and psychology, to study the partial correlation structure of a set of variables. This structure is visualized by drawing an undirected network, in which the variables constitute the nodes and the partial correlations the edges. In many applications, it makes sense to impose sparsity (i.e., some of the partial correlations are forced to zero) as sparsity is theoretically meaningful and/or because it improves the predictive accuracy of the fitted model. However, as we will show by means of extensive simulations, state-of-the-art estimation approaches for imposing sparsity on GGMs, such as the Graphical lasso, ℓ1 regularized nodewise regression, and joint sparse regression, fall short because they often yield too many false positives (i.e., partial correlations that are not properly set to zero). In this paper we present a new estimation approach that allows to control the false positive rate better. Our approach consists of two steps: First, we estimate an undirected network using one of the three state-of-the-art estimation approaches. Second, we try to detect the false positives, by flagging the partial correlations that are smaller in absolute value than a given threshold, which is determined through cross-validation; the flagged correlations are set to zero. Applying this new approach to the same simulated data, shows that it indeed performs better. We also illustrate our approach by using it to estimate (1) a gene regulatory network for breast cancer data, (2) a symptom network of patients with a diagnosis within the nonaffective psychotic spectrum and (3) a symptom network of patients with PTSD.
Tijdschrift: Scientific Reports
Issue: 1
Volume: 9
Pagina's: 1 - 24
Jaar van publicatie:2019