[R-sig-ME] How is the covariance factor computed?

Ben Bolker bbolker at gmail.com
Fri Jul 18 15:18:15 CEST 2014

On 14-07-18 08:39 AM, Christian Brauner wrote:
> Dear Vince, Ben and Steve,
> thank you! I'm reading the paper and the suggested sections. It's really
> good and really helpful! Just to make sure I understand you correctly: The
> individual variance-covariance matrices for the random effects can be
> easily computed from the data by "estimating" the variances and
> covariances for the random effects. A simple example of two
> variance-covariance matrices for two (non-scalar) random effects:
> R1=
> var_11 cov_21
> cov_12 var_22
> R2=
> var_11 cov_21
> cov_12 var_22
> Vince stated that that the "theta" slot which in your paper you call
> "variance-component parameter" (p. 4 right above equation (4)) contains
> the Cholesky factorization of the individual components of the
> variance-covariance matrices of the random effects. Hence, I assume that
> you can just compute them in R calling "chol(R1)" and "chol(R2)". This
> however, gives the wrong resuls when I compare the output of "getME(mod8,
> "theta") and "chol(R1)" and "chol(R2)".  How do I compute Cholesky
> factorization in R correctly?
> Best,
> Christian

   You probably forgot to scale by the residual standard error:

> On Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 09:38:06PM -0400, steve.walker at utoronto.ca wrote:
>> Hi Christian,
>> Although Vince pretty much answered your question, the preprint that you
>> refer to provides another description that some might find helpful,
>> http://arxiv.org/pdf/1406.5823v1.pdf
>> See "Constructing the relative covariance factor" starting at the bottom of
>> p. 10 and "PLS step I: update relative covariance factor" at the bottom of
>> p. 19.
>> The (profile) likelihood for theta that Vince discussed is equation 34 on
>> page 16.  Equation 30 is the likelihood for all three types of parameters --
>> theta, beta, and sigma.
>> Small point:  I think there is a typo in the answer below in that,
>>> the sigma parameters are then  simply numerically optimized
>> should refer to theta, not sigma.
>> Cheers,
>> Steve
>> Quoting Vincent Dorie <vdorie at cs.stanford.edu>:
>>> I'm not sure if this answers your question, but the parameters of  the
>>> variance/covariance matrix are stored in the theta slot of a  merMod in a
>>> form such that they correspond to a Cholesky  factorization of the
>>> individual components of the var/cov matrix of  the random effects, with
>>> the diagonal in the first 'd' parts of the  vector and the off-diagonal
>>> stored in column-major format in the  next d * (d - 1) / 2 elements. Given
>>> a theta vector, to get to a  representation such as that which Tlist gives
>>> requires knowing how  to map the parameters to matrices. This is currently
>>> done by hand,  using the knowledge that the cnms slot of a merMod contains
>>> the  dimension of each grouping "factor"/"level" and the aforementioned
>>> Cholesky decomposition storage concept. In the future, however, if  lme4
>>> supports different forms of variance/covariances matrices for  factors
>>> other than "full" (e.g. independent, or correlation only),  then that
>>> knowledge will need to be referenced instead. I believe the!
>>> re is effort on that front in the "flexLambda" branch on github.
>>> On the other hand, if you were asking where those numbers come from,  it
>>> turns out that (at least for linear models) those parameters are
>>> sufficient to define a likelihood wherein the fixed effects and
>>> conditional error term (sigma) are analytically optimized. Since the  goal
>>> is a maximum likelihood, or REML, the sigma parameters are then  simply
>>> numerically optimized. You can then easily evaluate the mixed  model
>>> likelihood at any value of the var/cov matrix of the random  effects that
>>> you like, provided you are willing to accept maximal  values for the fixed
>>> effects and sigma. If you wanted to plug those  values in as well, it's a
>>> bit of a pain but it can be done.
>>> Vince
>>> On Jul 17, 2014, at 11:41 AM, Christian Brauner
>>> <christianvanbrauner at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> Hello,
>>>> I am performing a priori power simulations for mixed-effect models based
>>>> on previous experiments. This works out quite nicely. I extract parts of
>>>> my parameters from a previous model I fitted:
>>>> prev_mod <- lmer(Y ~ A
>>>>                  + (B | Context)
>>>>                  + (B | Subjects),
>>>>                  data =3D data)
>>>> "A" :=3D 2 level factor
>>>> "Context" :=3D 40 level factor
>>>> "Subjects" :=3D 70 level factor
>>>> create design matrices for the fixed- and each random effect use
>>>> functions from
>>>> the apply-family and bind them to a previously set-up data frame and so on.
>>>> In order to simulate data I draw from two multivariate distributions. One
>>>> for Subjects and one for Context. I previously constructed the
>>>> variance-covariance matrix by using the estimations I get by issuing
>>>> "as.data.frame(prev_mod)". After having read that Doug implemented a new
>>>> method for the "getME()" extractor "Tlist" that gives the covariance
>>>> factors from which the block matrices in "Lambda" are created I figured I
>>>> could get the variance-covariance matrix way easier by doing (code here
>>>> only for the "Context" variance-covariance matrix):
>>>> cov_fac <- getME(prev_mod, "Tlist")
>>>> cov_fac_context <- cov_fac$Context
>>>> sigma(prev_mod)^2*cov_fac_context%*%t(cov_fac_context)
>>>> But the question that has been haunting me for weeks now is how the
>>>> individual
>>>> covariance factors (better: "matrices" in this case) that I can extract via
>>>> "getME(prev_mod, "Tlist") are computed. Is there some literature on that?  I
>>>> couldn't find any apart from the paper "Fitting linear mixed-effects models
>>>> using lme4" published 23.06.2014. I would be interested in reading up/get an
>>>> explanation how the covariance factor can be computed (mathematically and in
>>>> lme4) and if I need the variance-covariance matrix beforehand or vica versa.
>>>> Thank for any help!
>>>> Best,
>>>> Christian Brauner
>>>> Eberhard Karls Universit=C3=A4t T=C3=BCbingen
>>>> Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakult=C3=A4t - Faculty of Science
>>>> Evolutionary Cognition - Cognitive Science
>>>> Schleichstra=C3=9Fe 4 =C2=B7 72076 T=C3=BCbingen =C2=B7 Germany
>>>> Telefon +49 7071 29-75643 =C2=B7 Telefax +49 7071 29-4721
>>>> christianvanbrauner at gmail.com
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