Causal Structure Discovery (CSD) is the problem of identifying causal relationships from large quantities of data through computational methods. With the limited ability of traditional association-based computational methods to discover causal relationships, CSD methodologies are gaining popularity. The goal of the study was to systematically examine whether (i) CSD methods can discover the known causal relationships from observational clinical data and (ii) to offer guidance to accurately discover known causal relationships. We used Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a complex progressive disease, as a model because the well-established evidence provides a “gold-standard” causal graph for evaluation. We evaluated two CSD methods, Fast Causal Inference (FCI) and Fast Greedy Equivalence Search (FGES) in their ability to discover this structure from data collected by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). We used structural equation models (which is not designed for CSD) as control. We applied these methods under three scenarios defined by increasing amounts of background knowledge provided to the methods. The methods were evaluated by comparing the resulting causal relationships with the “gold standard” graph that was constructed from literature. Dedicated CSD methods managed to discover graphs that nearly coincided with the gold standard. For best results, CSD algorithms should be used with longitudinal data providing as much prior knowledge as possible.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant #AG056366. Contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent official views of the NIH. Data collection and sharing for this project was funded by the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) (National Institutes of Health Grant U01 AG024904) and DOD ADNI (Department of Defense award number W81XWH-12-2-0012). ADNI is funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and through generous contributions from the following: AbbVie, Alzheimer’s Association; Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation; Araclon Biotech; BioClinica, Inc.; Biogen; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; CereSpir, Inc.; Cogstate; Eisai Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Eli Lilly and Company; EuroImmun; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd and its affiliated company Genentech, Inc.; Fujirebio; GE Healthcare; IXICO Ltd.; Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy Research & Development, LLC.; Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development LLC.; Lumosity; Lundbeck; Merck & Co., Inc.; Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC.; NeuroRx Research; Neurotrack Technologies; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Piramal Imaging; Servier; Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; and Transition Therapeutics. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is providing funds to support ADNI clinical sites in Canada. Private sector contributions are facilitated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (www.fnih.org). The grantee organization is the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, and the study is coordinated by the Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute at the University of Southern California. ADNI data are disseminated by the Laboratory for Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California.
© 2020, The Author(s).
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Comparative Study
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
- Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.