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Abstract:As a technique that can compactly represent complex patterns, machine learning has significant potential for predictive inference. K-fold cross-validation (CV) is the most common approach to ascertaining the likelihood that a machine learning outcome is generated by chance and frequently outperforms conventional hypothesis testing. This improvement uses measures directly obtained from machine learning classifications, such as accuracy, that do not have a parametric description. To approach a frequentist analysis within machine learning pipelines, a permutation test or simple statistics from data partitions (i.e. folds) can be added to estimate confidence intervals. Unfortunately, neither parametric nor non-parametric tests solve the inherent problems around partitioning small sample-size datasets and learning from heterogeneous data sources. The fact that machine learning strongly depends on the learning parameters and the distribution of data across folds recapitulates familiar difficulties around excess false positives and replication. The origins of this problem are demonstrated by simulating common experimental circumstances, including small sample sizes, low numbers of predictors, and heterogeneous data sources. A novel statistical test based on K-fold CV and the Upper Bound of the actual error (K-fold CUBV) is composed, where uncertain predictions of machine learning with CV are bounded by the \emph{worst case} through the evaluation of concentration inequalities. Probably Approximately Correct-Bayesian upper bounds for linear classifiers in combination with K-fold CV is used to estimate the empirical error. The performance with neuroimaging datasets suggests this is a robust criterion for detecting effects, validating accuracy values obtained from machine learning whilst avoiding excess false positives.

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