Purdue University Graduate School

File(s) under embargo

Reason: Working on submitting last chapter to journal/conference





until file(s) become available

On the use of $\alpha$-stable random variables in Bayesian bridge regression, neural networks and kernel processes.pdf

posted on 2024-04-23, 14:58 authored by Jorge E LoriaJorge E Loria

The first chapter considers the l_α regularized linear regression, also termed Bridge regression. For α ∈ (0, 1), Bridge regression enjoys several statistical properties of interest such

as sparsity and near-unbiasedness of the estimates (Fan & Li, 2001). However, the main difficulty lies in the non-convex nature of the penalty for these values of α, which makes an

optimization procedure challenging and usually it is only possible to find a local optimum. To address this issue, Polson et al. (2013) took a sampling based fully Bayesian approach to this problem, using the correspondence between the Bridge penalty and a power exponential prior on the regression coefficients. However, their sampling procedure relies on Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) techniques, which are inherently sequential and not scalable to large problem dimensions. Cross validation approaches are similarly computation-intensive. To this end, our contribution is a novel non-iterative method to fit a Bridge regression model. The main contribution lies in an explicit formula for Stein’s unbiased risk estimate for the out of sample prediction risk of Bridge regression, which can then be optimized to select the desired tuning parameters, allowing us to completely bypass MCMC as well as computation-intensive cross validation approaches. Our procedure yields results in a fraction of computational times compared to iterative schemes, without any appreciable loss in statistical performance.

Next, we build upon the classical and influential works of Neal (1996), who proved that the infinite width scaling limit of a Bayesian neural network with one hidden layer is a Gaussian process, when the network weights have bounded prior variance. Neal’s result has been extended to networks with multiple hidden layers and to convolutional neural networks, also with Gaussian process scaling limits. The tractable properties of Gaussian processes then allow straightforward posterior inference and uncertainty quantification, considerably simplifying the study of the limit process compared to a network of finite width. Neural network weights with unbounded variance, however, pose unique challenges. In this case, the classical central limit theorem breaks down and it is well known that the scaling limit is an α-stable process under suitable conditions. However, current literature is primarily limited to forward simulations under these processes and the problem of posterior inference under such a scaling limit remains largely unaddressed, unlike in the Gaussian process case. To this end, our contribution is an interpretable and computationally efficient procedure for posterior inference, using a conditionally Gaussian representation, that then allows full use of the Gaussian process machinery for tractable posterior inference and uncertainty quantification in the non-Gaussian regime.

Finally, we extend on the previous chapter, by considering a natural extension to deep neural networks through kernel processes. Kernel processes (Aitchison et al., 2021) generalize to deeper networks the notion proved by Neal (1996) by describing the non-linear transformation in each layer as a covariance matrix (kernel) of a Gaussian process. In this way, each succesive layer transforms the covariance matrix in the previous layer by a covariance function. However, the covariance obtained by this process loses any possibility of representation learning since the covariance matrix is deterministic. To address this, Aitchison et al. (2021) proposed deep kernel processes using Wishart and inverse Wishart matrices for each layer in deep neural networks. Nevertheless, the approach they propose requires using a process that does not emerge from the limit of a classic neural network structure. We introduce α-stable kernel processes (α-KP) for learning posterior stochastic covariances in each layer. Our results show that our method is much better than the approach proposed by Aitchison et al. (2021) in both simulated data and the benchmark Boston dataset.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Statistics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Anindya Bhadra

Additional Committee Member 2

Arman Sabbaghi

Additional Committee Member 3

Antik Chakraborty

Additional Committee Member 4

Takashi Owada

Usage metrics



    Ref. manager