Bayesian nonparametric hierarchical modeling.
In biomedical research, hierarchical models are very widely used to accommodate dependence in multivariate and longitudinal data and for borrowing of information across data from different sources. A primary concern in hierarchical modeling is sensitivity to parametric assumptions, such as linearity and normality of the random effects. Parametric assumptions on latent variable distributions can be challenging to check and are typically unwarranted, given available prior knowledge. This article reviews some recent developments in Bayesian nonparametric methods motivated by complex, multivariate and functional data collected in biomedical studies. The author provides a brief review of flexible parametric approaches relying on finite mixtures and latent class modeling. Dirichlet process mixture models are motivated by the need to generalize these approaches to avoid assuming a fixed finite number of classes. Focusing on an epidemiology application, the author illustrates the practical utility and potential of nonparametric Bayes methods.
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