Gradient-based MCMC samplers for dynamic causal modelling

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In this technical note, we derive two MCMC (Markov chain Monte Carlo) samplers for dynamic causal models (DCMs). Specifically, we use (a) Hamiltonian MCMC (HMC-E) where sampling is simulated using Hamilton's equation of motion and (b) Langevin Monte Carlo algorithm (LMC-R and LMC-E) that simulates the Langevin diffusion of samples using gradients either on a Euclidean (E) or on a Riemannian (R) manifold. While LMC-R requires minimal tuning, the implementation of HMC-E is heavily dependent on its tuning parameters. These parameters are therefore optimised by learning a Gaussian process model of the time-normalised sample correlation matrix. This allows one to formulate an objective function that balances tuning parameter exploration and exploitation, furnishing an intervention-free inference scheme. Using neural mass models (NMMs)—a class of biophysically motivated DCMs—we find that HMC-E is statistically more efficient than LMC-R (with a Riemannian metric); yet both gradient-based samplers are far superior to the random walk Metropolis algorithm, which proves inadequate to steer away from dynamical instability.




Sengupta, B., Friston, K. J., & Penny, W. D. (2016). Gradient-based MCMC samplers for dynamic causal modelling. NeuroImage, 125, 1107–1118.

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