Archive for neurosciences

round-table on Bayes[ian[ism]]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2017 by xi'an

In a [sort of] coincidence, shortly after writing my review on Le bayésianisme aujourd’hui, I got invited by the book editor, Isabelle Drouet, to take part in a round-table on Bayesianism in La Sorbonne. Which constituted the first seminar in the monthly series of the séminaire “Probabilités, Décision, Incertitude”. Invitation that I accepted and honoured by taking place in this public debate (if not dispute) on all [or most] things Bayes. Along with Paul Egré (CNRS, Institut Jean Nicod) and Pascal Pernot (CNRS, Laboratoire de chimie physique). And without a neuroscientist, who could not or would not attend.

While nothing earthshaking came out of the seminar, and certainly not from me!, it was interesting to hear of the perspectives of my philosophy+psychology and chemistry colleagues, the former explaining his path from classical to Bayesian testing—while mentioning trying to read the book Statistical rethinking reviewed a few months ago—and the later the difficulty to teach both colleagues and students the need for an assessment of uncertainty in measurements. And alluding to GUM, developed by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures I visited last year. I tried to present my relativity viewpoints on the [relative] nature of the prior, to avoid the usual morass of debates on the nature and subjectivity of the prior, tried to explain Bayesian posteriors via ABC, mentioned examples from The Theorem that Would not Die, yet untranslated into French, and expressed reserves about the glorious future of Bayesian statistics as we know it. This seminar was fairly enjoyable, with none of the stress induced by the constraints of a radio-show. Just too bad it did not attract a wider audience!

le bayésianisme aujourd’hui [book review]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2017 by xi'an

It is quite rare to see a book published in French about Bayesian statistics and even rarer to find one that connects philosophy of science, foundations of probability, statistics, and applications in neurosciences and artificial intelligence. Le bayésianisme aujourd’hui (Bayesianism today) was edited by Isabelle Drouet, a Reader in Philosophy at La Sorbonne. And includes a chapter of mine on the basics of Bayesian inference (à la Bayesian Choice), written in French like the rest of the book.

The title of the book is rather surprising (to me) as I had never heard the term Bayesianism mentioned before. As shown by this link, the term apparently exists. (Even though I dislike the sound of it!) The notion is one of a probabilistic structure of knowledge and learning, à la Poincaré. As described in the beginning of the book. But I fear the arguments minimising the subjectivity of the Bayesian approach should not be advanced, following my new stance on the relativity of probabilistic statements, if only because they are defensive and open the path all too easily to counterarguments. Similarly, the argument according to which the “Big Data” era makesp the impact of the prior negligible and paradoxically justifies the use of Bayesian methods is limited to the case of little Big Data, i.e., when the observations are more or less iid with a limited number of parameters. Not when the number of parameters explodes. Another set of arguments that I find both more modern and compelling [for being modern is not necessarily a plus!] is the ease with which the Bayesian framework allows for integrative and cooperative learning. Along with its ultimate modularity, since each component of the learning mechanism can be extracted and replaced with an alternative. Continue reading

sex, lies, & brain scans [not a book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on February 11, 2017 by xi'an

“Sahakian and Gottwald discuss the problem of “reverse inference” regrettably late in the book.”

In the book review section of Nature [Jan 12, 2017 issue], there was a long coverage of the book sex. lies, & brain scans: How fMRI Reveals What Really Goes on in our Minds, by Barbara J. Sahakian and Julia Gottwald. While I have not read the book (which is not even yet out on amazon), I found some mentions of associating brain patterns with criminal behaviour quite puzzling: “neuroimaging will probably be an imperfect predictor of criminal behaviour”. Actually, much more than puzzling, both frightening with its Minority Report prospects [once again quoted as a movie rather than Philip K. Dick’s novel!], and bordering the irrational, for associating breaking rules with a brain pattern. Of course this is just an impression from reading a book review and the attempts may be restricted to psychological diseases rather than attempt at social engineering and brain policing, but if this is the case, as suggested by the review, it is downright scary!

statistical challenges in neuroscience

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2014 by xi'an

neuroYet another workshop around! Still at Warwick, organised by Simon Barthelmé, Nicolas Chopin and Adam Johansen  on the theme of statistical aspects of neuroscience. Being nearby I attended a few lectures today but most talks are more topical than my current interest in the matter, plus workshop fatigue starts to appear!, and hence I will keep a low attendance for the rest of the week to take advantage of my visit here to make some progress in my research and in the preparation of the teaching semester. (Maybe paradoxically I attended a non-neuroscience talk by listening to Richard Wilkinson’s coverage of ABC methods, with an interesting stress on meta-models and the link with computer experiments. Given that we are currently re-revising our paper with Matt Moore and Kerrie Mengersen (and now Chris Drovandi), I find interesting to see a sort of convergence in our community towards a re-re-interpretation of ABC as producing an approximation of the distribution of the summary statistic itself, rather than of the original data, using auxiliary or indirect or pseudo-models like Gaussian processes. (Making the link with Mark Girolami’s talk this morning.)

Le Monde puzzle [#869]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2014 by xi'an

An uninteresting Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

Solve the system of equations

  • a+b+c=16,
  • b+c+d=12,
  • d+c+e=16,
  • e+c+f=18,
  • g+c+a=15

for 7 different integers 1≤a,…,g9.

Indeed, the final four equations determine d=a-4, e=b+4, f=a-2, g=b-1 as functions of a and b. While forcing 5≤a, 2b≤5, and  7a+b≤15. Hence, 5 possible values for a and 4 for b. Which makes 20 possible solutions for the system. However the fact that a,b,c,d,e,f,g are all different reduces considerably the possibilities. For instance, b must be less than a-4. The elimination of impossible cases leads in the end to consider b=a-5 and b=a-7. And eventually to a=8, b=3… Not so uninteresting then. A variant of Sudoku, with open questions like what is the collection of the possible values of the five sums, i.e. of the values with one and only one existing solution? Are there cases where four equations only suffice to determine a,b,c,d,e,f,g?

Apart from this integer programming exercise, a few items of relevance in this Le Monde Science & Medicine leaflet.  A description of the day of a social sciences worker in front of a computer, in connection with a sociology (or sociometry) blog and a conference on Big Data in sociology at Collège de France. A tribune by the physicist Marco on data sharing (and not-sharing) illustrated by an experiment on dark matter called Cogent. And then a long interview of Matthieu Ricard, who argues about the “scientifically proven impact of meditation”, a sad illustration of the ease with which religions permeate the scientific debate [or at least the science section of Le Monde] and mingle scientific terms with religious concepts (e.g., the fusion term of “contemplative sciences”). [As another “of those coincidences”, on the same day I read this leaflet, Matthieu Ricard was the topic of one question on a radio quizz.]

Le Monde puzzle [#845]

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by xi'an

Yet another one of those Le Monde mathematical puzzles which wording is confusing to me:

Take the set of integers between 1 and 1000. endow all of them randomly with red or blue tags. group them by subsets of three or more (grapes). and also group them by pairs so that a switch can change the colour of both integers.  Is it always possible to activate the switches so that one ends up with all grapes being multicoloured?  Unicoloured? 

I find it (again!) ultimately puzzling since there are configurations where it cannot work. In the first case, take a grape made of four integers of the same colour, reunited two by two by a switch: activating the switch simply invert the colours but the grape remains uni-coloured. Conversely, take two integers with opposite colours within the same grape. No mater how long one operates the switch, they will remain of an opposite colour, won’t they?!

This issue of Le Monde Science&Médecine leaflet actually had several interesting entries, from one on “the thirst of the sociologist for statistical irregularities“—meaning that regression should account for confounding factors like social class versus school performances—to the above picture about weighting the mass of a neutrino—mostly because it strongly reminds of Escher, as I cannot understand the 3D structure of the picture—, to  another tribune of Marco Zito informing me that “quark” is a word invented by James Joyce—and not by Carroll as I believed—, to an interview of Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscientist professor at Collège de France and a (fairly young) member of the Académie des Sciences—where he mentions statistical learning patterns that reminded me of the Bayesian constructs Pierre Bessière discussed on France Culture—.

Bayesian introductions at IXXI

Posted in Mountains, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2013 by xi'an

Ten days ago I did a lighting-fast visit to Grenoble for a quick introduction to Bayesian notions during a Bayesian day organised by Michael Blum. It was supported by IXXI, Rhône Alpes Complex Systems Institute, a light structure that favors interdisciplinary research to model complex sytems such as biological or social systems, technological networks… This was an opportunity to recycle my Budapest overview from Bayes 250th to Bayes 2.5.0. (As I have changed my email signature initial from X to IX, I further enjoyed the name IXXI!) More seriously, I appreciated (despite the too short time spent there!) the mix of perspectives and disciplines represented in this introduction, from Bayesian networks and causality in computer science and medical expert systems, to neurosciences and the Bayesian theory of mind, to Bayesian population genetics. And hence the mix of audiences. The part about neurosciences and social representations on others’ mind reminded me of the discussion with Pierre Bessières we had a year ago on France Culture. Again, I am quite sorry and apologetic for having missed part of the day and opportunities for discussions, simply because of a tight schedule this week…