G-AMA: Sparse Gaussian graphical model estimation via alternating minimization

by   Onkar Dalal, et al.

Several methods have been recently proposed for estimating sparse Gaussian graphical models using ℓ_1 regularization on the inverse covariance matrix. Despite recent advances, contemporary applications require methods that are even faster in order to handle ill-conditioned high dimensional modern day datasets. In this paper, we propose a new method, G-AMA, to solve the sparse inverse covariance estimation problem using Alternating Minimization Algorithm (AMA), that effectively works as a proximal gradient algorithm on the dual problem. Our approach has several novel advantages over existing methods. First, we demonstrate that G-AMA is faster than the previous best algorithms by many orders of magnitude and is thus an ideal approach for modern high throughput applications. Second, global linear convergence of G-AMA is demonstrated rigorously, underscoring its good theoretical properties. Third, the dual algorithm operates on the covariance matrix, and thus easily facilitates incorporating additional constraints on pairwise/marginal relationships between feature pairs based on domain specific knowledge. Over and above estimating a sparse inverse covariance matrix, we also illustrate how to (1) incorporate constraints on the (bivariate) correlations and, (2) incorporate equality (equisparsity) or linear constraints between individual inverse covariance elements. Fourth, we also show that G-AMA is better adept at handling extremely ill-conditioned problems, as is often the case with real data. The methodology is demonstrated on both simulated and real datasets to illustrate its superior performance over recently proposed methods.


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