Exact Covariance Thresholding into Connected Components for Large-Scale Graphical Lasso

Rahul Mazumder, Trevor Hastie; 13(Mar):781−794, 2012.


We consider the sparse inverse covariance regularization problem or graphical lasso with regularization parameter λ. Suppose the sample covariance graph formed by thresholding the entries of the sample covariance matrix at λ is decomposed into connected components. We show that the vertex-partition induced by the connected components of the thresholded sample covariance graph (at λ) is exactly equal to that induced by the connected components of the estimated concentration graph, obtained by solving the graphical lasso problem for the same λ. This characterizes a very interesting property of a path of graphical lasso solutions. Furthermore, this simple rule, when used as a wrapper around existing algorithms for the graphical lasso, leads to enormous performance gains. For a range of values of λ, our proposal splits a large graphical lasso problem into smaller tractable problems, making it possible to solve an otherwise infeasible large-scale problem. We illustrate the graceful scalability of our proposal via synthetic and real-life microarray examples.


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