Perspectives on Sparse Bayesian Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 16 (NIPS 2003)

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Jason Palmer, Bhaskar Rao, David Wipf


Recently, relevance vector machines (RVM) have been fashioned from a sparse Bayesian learning (SBL) framework to perform supervised learn- ing using a weight prior that encourages sparsity of representation. The methodology incorporates an additional set of hyperparameters govern- ing the prior, one for each weight, and then adopts a speciļ¬c approxi- mation to the full marginalization over all weights and hyperparameters. Despite its empirical success however, no rigorous motivation for this particular approximation is currently available. To address this issue, we demonstrate that SBL can be recast as the application of a rigorous vari- ational approximation to the full model by expressing the prior in a dual form. This formulation obviates the necessity of assuming any hyperpri- ors and leads to natural, intuitive explanations of why sparsity is achieved in practice.