Assessing the collective utility of multiple analyses on clinical alcohol use disorder data

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OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess the potential of combining graph learning methods with latent variable estimation methods for mining clinically useful information from observational clinical data sets.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The data set contained self-reported measures of psychopathology symptoms from a clinical sample receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder. We used the traditional graph learning methods: Graphical Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator, and Friedman's hill climbing algorithm; traditional latent variable estimation method factor analysis; recently developed graph learning method Greedy Fast Causal Inference; and recently developed latent variable estimation method Find One Factor Clusters. Methods were assessed qualitatively by the content of their findings.

RESULTS: Recently developed graphical methods identified potential latent variables (ie, not represented in the model) influencing particular scores. Recently developed latent effect estimation methods identified plausible cross-score loadings that were not found with factor analysis. A graphical analysis of individual items identified a mistake in wording on 1 questionnaire and provided further evidence that certain scores are not reflective of indirectly measured common causes.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that a combination of Greedy Fast Causal Inference and Find One Factor Clusters can enhance the evidence-based information yield from psychopathological constructs and questionnaires. Traditional methods provided some of the same information but missed other important findings. These conclusions point the way toward more informative interrogations of existing and future data sets than are commonly employed at present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1055
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jun 24 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Medical Informatics Association. All rights reserved.


  • alcoholism
  • algorithms
  • causality
  • psychopathology
  • questionnaires
  • surveys

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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