Clustering and variable selection in the presence of mixed variable types and missing data

C. B. Storlie, S. M. Myers, S. K. Katusic, A. L. Weaver, R. G. Voigt, P. E. Croarkin, R. E. Stoeckel, J. D. Port

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We consider the problem of model-based clustering in the presence of many correlated, mixed continuous, and discrete variables, some of which may have missing values. Discrete variables are treated with a latent continuous variable approach, and the Dirichlet process is used to construct a mixture model with an unknown number of components. Variable selection is also performed to identify the variables that are most influential for determining cluster membership. The work is motivated by the need to cluster patients thought to potentially have autism spectrum disorder on the basis of many cognitive and/or behavioral test scores. There are a modest number of patients (486) in the data set along with many (55) test score variables (many of which are discrete valued and/or missing). The goal of the work is to (1) cluster these patients into similar groups to help identify those with similar clinical presentation and (2) identify a sparse subset of tests that inform the clusters in order to eliminate unnecessary testing. The proposed approach compares very favorably with other methods via simulation of problems of this type. The results of the autism spectrum disorder analysis suggested 3 clusters to be most likely, while only 4 test scores had high (>0.5) posterior probability of being informative. This will result in much more efficient and informative testing. The need to cluster observations on the basis of many correlated, continuous/discrete variables with missing values is a common problem in the health sciences as well as in many other disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2884-2899
Number of pages16
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number19
StatePublished - Aug 30 2018


  • Dirichlet process
  • hierarchical Bayesian modeling
  • missing data
  • mixed variable types
  • model-based clustering
  • variable selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability


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