Adversarially-Regularized Mixed Effects Deep Learning (ARMED) Models Improve Interpretability, Performance, and Generalization on Clustered (non-<italic>iid</italic>) Data

Kevin P. Nguyen, Alex H. Treacher, Albert A. Montillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural science datasets frequently violate assumptions of independence. Samples may be clustered (e.g. by study site, subject, or experimental batch), leading to spurious associations, poor model fitting, and confounded analyses. While largely unaddressed in deep learning, this problem has been handled in the statistics community through mixed effects models, which separate cluster-invariant <italic>fixed</italic> effects from cluster-specific <italic>random</italic> effects. We propose a general-purpose framework for Adversarially-Regularized Mixed Effects Deep learning (ARMED) models through non-intrusive additions to existing neural networks: 1) an adversarial classifier constraining the original model to learn only cluster-invariant features, 2) a random effects subnetwork capturing cluster-specific features, and 3) an approach to apply random effects to clusters unseen during training. We apply ARMED to dense, convolutional, and autoencoder neural networks on 4 datasets including simulated nonlinear data, dementia prognosis and diagnosis, and live-cell image analysis. Compared to prior techniques, ARMED models better distinguish confounded from true associations in simulations and learn more biologically plausible features in clinical applications. They can also quantify inter-cluster variance and visualize cluster effects in data. Finally, ARMED matches or improves performance on data from clusters seen during training (5-28&#x0025; relative improvement) and generalization to unseen clusters (2-9&#x0025; relative improvement) vs. conventional models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Adaptation models
  • Bayes methods
  • Biological system modeling
  • biomedical imaging
  • clinical data
  • Data models
  • Deep learning
  • generalization
  • interpretability
  • mixed effects model
  • multilevel model
  • Predictive models
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Applied Mathematics


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