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      A neural network approach to approximating MAP in belief networks.

      International journal of neural systems

      Reproducibility of Results, Neural Networks (Computer), Models, Statistical, Bayes Theorem, Artifacts, Algorithms

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          Bayesian belief networks (BBN) are a widely studied graphical model for representing uncertainty and probabilistic interdependence among variables. One of the factors that restricts the model's wide acceptance in practical applications is that the general inference with BBN is NP-hard. This is also true for the maximum a posteriori probability (MAP) problem, which is to find the most probable joint value assignment to all uninstantiated variables, given instantiation of some variables in a BBN. To circumvent the difficulty caused by MAP's computational complexity, we suggest in this paper a neural network approximation approach. With this approach, a BBN is treated as a neural network without any change or transformation of the network structure, and the node activation functions are derived based on an energy function defined over a given BBN. Three methods are developed. They are the hill-climbing style discrete method, the simulated annealing method, and the continuous method based on the mean field theory. All three methods are for BBN of general structures, with the restriction that nodes of BBN are binary variables. In addition, rules for applying these methods to noisy-or networks are also developed, which may lead to more efficient computation in some cases. These methods' convergence is analyzed, and their validity tested through a series of computer experiments with two BBN of moderate size and complexity. Although additional theoretical and empirical work is needed, the analysis and experiments suggest that this approach may lead to effective and accurate approximation for MAP problems.

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