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Abdolmahdi Bagheri, Mohammad Pasande, Kevin Bello, Alireza Akhondi-Asl, Babak Nadjar Araabi

Understanding the complex mechanisms of the brain can be unraveled by extracting the Dynamic Effective Connectome (DEC). Recently, score-based Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) discovery methods have shown significant improvements in extracting the causal structure and inferring effective connectivity. However, learning DEC through these methods still faces two main challenges: one with the fundamental impotence of high-dimensional dynamic DAG discovery methods and the other with the low quality of fMRI data. In this paper, we introduce Bayesian Dynamic DAG learning with M-matrices Acyclicity characterization \textbf{(BDyMA)} method to address the challenges in discovering DEC. The presented dynamic causal model enables us to discover bidirected edges as well. Leveraging an unconstrained framework in the BDyMA method leads to more accurate results in detecting high-dimensional networks, achieving sparser outcomes, making it particularly suitable for extracting DEC. Additionally, the score function of the BDyMA method allows the incorporation of prior knowledge into the process of dynamic causal discovery which further enhances the accuracy of results. Comprehensive simulations on synthetic data and experiments on Human Connectome Project (HCP) data demonstrate that our method can handle both of the two main challenges, yielding more accurate and reliable DEC compared to state-of-the-art and baseline methods. Additionally, we investigate the trustworthiness of DTI data as prior knowledge for DEC discovery and show the improvements in DEC discovery when the DTI data is incorporated into the process.

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Chang Deng, Kevin Bello, Bryon Aragam, Pradeep Ravikumar

Recently, a new class of non-convex optimization problems motivated by the statistical problem of learning an acyclic directed graphical model from data has attracted significant interest. While existing work uses standard first-order optimization schemes to solve this problem, proving the global optimality of such approaches has proven elusive. The difficulty lies in the fact that unlike other non-convex problems in the literature, this problem is not "benign", and possesses multiple spurious solutions that standard approaches can easily get trapped in. In this paper, we prove that a simple path-following optimization scheme globally converges to the global minimum of the population loss in the bivariate setting.

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Tianyu Chen, Kevin Bello, Bryon Aragam, Pradeep Ravikumar

Structural causal models (SCMs) are widely used in various disciplines to represent causal relationships among variables in complex systems. Unfortunately, the true underlying directed acyclic graph (DAG) structure is often unknown, and determining it from observational or interventional data remains a challenging task. However, in many situations, the end goal is to identify changes (shifts) in causal mechanisms between related SCMs rather than recovering the entire underlying DAG structure. Examples include analyzing gene regulatory network structure changes between healthy and cancerous individuals or understanding variations in biological pathways under different cellular contexts. This paper focuses on identifying $\textit{functional}$ mechanism shifts in two or more related SCMs over the same set of variables -- $\textit{without estimating the entire DAG structure of each SCM}$. Prior work under this setting assumed linear models with Gaussian noises; instead, in this work we assume that each SCM belongs to the more general class of nonlinear additive noise models (ANMs). A key contribution of this work is to show that the Jacobian of the score function for the $\textit{mixture distribution}$ allows for identification of shifts in general non-parametric functional mechanisms. Once the shifted variables are identified, we leverage recent work to estimate the structural differences, if any, for the shifted variables. Experiments on synthetic and real-world data are provided to showcase the applicability of this approach.

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Chang Deng, Kevin Bello, Bryon Aragam, Pradeep Ravikumar

Recently, an intriguing class of non-convex optimization problems has emerged in the context of learning directed acyclic graphs (DAGs). These problems involve minimizing a given loss or score function, subject to a non-convex continuous constraint that penalizes the presence of cycles in a graph. In this work, we delve into the optimization challenges associated with this class of non-convex programs. To address these challenges, we propose a bi-level algorithm that leverages the non-convex constraint in a novel way. The outer level of the algorithm optimizes over topological orders by iteratively swapping pairs of nodes within the topological order of a DAG. A key innovation of our approach is the development of an effective method for generating a set of candidate swapping pairs for each iteration. At the inner level, given a topological order, we utilize off-the-shelf solvers that can handle linear constraints. The key advantage of our proposed algorithm is that it is guaranteed to find a local minimum or a KKT point under weaker conditions compared to previous work and finds solutions with lower scores. Extensive experiments demonstrate that our method outperforms state-of-the-art approaches in terms of achieving a better score. Additionally, our method can also be used as a post-processing algorithm to significantly improve the score of other algorithms. Code implementing the proposed method is available at https://github.com/duntrain/topo.

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Kevin Bello, Bryon Aragam, Pradeep Ravikumar

The combinatorial problem of learning directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) from data was recently framed as a purely continuous optimization problem by leveraging a differentiable acyclicity characterization of DAGs based on the trace of a matrix exponential function. Existing acyclicity characterizations are based on the idea that powers of an adjacency matrix contain information about walks and cycles. In this work, we propose a $\textit{fundamentally different}$ acyclicity characterization based on the log-determinant (log-det) function, which leverages the nilpotency property of DAGs. To deal with the inherent asymmetries of a DAG, we relate the domain of our log-det characterization to the set of $\textit{M-matrices}$, which is a key difference to the classical log-det function defined over the cone of positive definite matrices. Similar to acyclicity functions previously proposed, our characterization is also exact and differentiable. However, when compared to existing characterizations, our log-det function: (1) Is better at detecting large cycles; (2) Has better-behaved gradients; and (3) Its runtime is in practice about an order of magnitude faster. From the optimization side, we drop the typically used augmented Lagrangian scheme, and propose DAGMA ($\textit{Directed Acyclic Graphs via M-matrices for Acyclicity}$), a method that resembles the central path for barrier methods. Each point in the central path of DAGMA is a solution to an unconstrained problem regularized by our log-det function, then we show that at the limit of the central path the solution is guaranteed to be a DAG. Finally, we provide extensive experiments for $\textit{linear}$ and $\textit{nonlinear}$ SEMs, and show that our approach can reach large speed-ups and smaller structural Hamming distances against state-of-the-art methods.

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Hanbyul Lee, Kevin Bello, Jean Honorio

Inference is a main task in structured prediction and it is naturally modeled with a graph. In the context of Markov random fields, noisy observations corresponding to nodes and edges are usually involved, and the goal of exact inference is to recover the unknown true label for each node precisely. The focus of this paper is on the fundamental limits of exact recovery irrespective of computational efficiency, assuming the generative process proposed by Globerson et al. (2015). We derive the necessary condition for any algorithm and the sufficient condition for maximum likelihood estimation to achieve exact recovery with high probability, and reveal that the sufficient and necessary conditions are tight up to a logarithmic factor for a wide range of graphs. Finally, we show that there exists a gap between the fundamental limits and the performance of the computationally tractable method of Bello and Honorio (2019), which implies the need for further development of algorithms for exact inference.

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Kevin Bello, Chuyang Ke, Jean Honorio

Performing inference in graphs is a common task within several machine learning problems, e.g., image segmentation, community detection, among others. For a given undirected connected graph, we tackle the statistical problem of exactly recovering an unknown ground-truth binary labeling of the nodes from a single corrupted observation of each edge. Such problem can be formulated as a quadratic combinatorial optimization problem over the boolean hypercube, where it has been shown before that one can (with high probability and in polynomial time) exactly recover the ground-truth labeling of graphs that have an isoperimetric number that grows with respect to the number of nodes (e.g., complete graphs, regular expanders). In this work, we apply a powerful hierarchy of relaxations, known as the sum-of-squares (SoS) hierarchy, to the combinatorial problem. Motivated by empirical evidence on the improvement in exact recoverability, we center our attention on the degree-4 SoS relaxation and set out to understand the origin of such improvement from a graph theoretical perspective. We show that the solution of the dual of the relaxed problem is related to finding edge weights of the Johnson and Kneser graphs, where the weights fulfill the SoS constraints and intuitively allow the input graph to increase its algebraic connectivity. Finally, as byproduct of our analysis, we derive a novel Cheeger-type lower bound for the algebraic connectivity of graphs with signed edge weights.

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Gregory Dexter, Kevin Bello, Jean Honorio

Inverse Reinforcement Learning (IRL) is the problem of finding a reward function which describes observed/known expert behavior. IRL is useful for automated control in situations where the reward function is difficult to specify manually, which impedes reinforcement learning. We provide a new IRL algorithm for the continuous state space setting with unknown transition dynamics by modeling the system using a basis of orthonormal functions. We provide a proof of correctness and formal guarantees on the sample and time complexity of our algorithm.

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Kevin Bello, Qiuling Xu, Jean Honorio

Robustness of machine learning methods is essential for modern practical applications. Given the arms race between attack and defense methods, one may be curious regarding the fundamental limits of any defense mechanism. In this work, we focus on the problem of learning from noise-injected data, where the existing literature falls short by either assuming a specific attack method or by over-specifying the learning problem. We shed light on the information-theoretic limits of adversarial learning without assuming a particular learning process or attacker. Finally, we apply our general bounds to a canonical set of non-trivial learning problems and provide examples of common types of attacks.

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Kevin Bello, Jean Honorio

Many inference problems in structured prediction can be modeled as maximizing a score function on a space of labels, where graphs are a natural representation to decompose the total score into a sum of unary (nodes) and pairwise (edges) scores. Given a generative model with an undirected connected graph $G$ and true vector of binary labels, it has been previously shown that when $G$ has good expansion properties, such as complete graphs or $d$-regular expanders, one can exactly recover the true labels (with high probability and in polynomial time) from a single noisy observation of each edge and node. We analyze the previously studied generative model by Globerson et al. (2015) under a notion of statistical parity. That is, given a fair binary node labeling, we ask the question whether it is possible to recover the fair assignment, with high probability and in polynomial time, from single edge and node observations. We find that, in contrast to the known trade-offs between fairness and model performance, the addition of the fairness constraint improves the probability of exact recovery. We effectively explain this phenomenon and empirically show how graphs with poor expansion properties, such as grids, are now capable to achieve exact recovery with high probability. Finally, as a byproduct of our analysis, we provide a tighter minimum-eigenvalue bound than that of Weyl's inequality.

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