A Cross-Validated Ensemble Approach to Robust Hypothesis Testing of Continuous Nonlinear Interactions: Application to Nutrition-Environment Studies

Jeremiah Zhe Liu, Wenying Deng, Jane Lee, Pi i.Debby Lin, Linda Valeri, David C. Christiani, David C. Bellinger, Robert O. Wright, Maitreyi M. Mazumdar, Brent A. Coull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Gene-environment and nutrition-environment studies often involve testing of high-dimensional interactions between two sets of variables, each having potentially complex nonlinear main effects on an outcome. Construction of a valid and powerful hypothesis test for such an interaction is challenging, due to the difficulty in constructing an efficient and unbiased estimator for the complex, nonlinear main effects. In this work, we address this problem by proposing a cross-validated ensemble of kernels (CVEK) that learns the space of appropriate functions for the main effects using a cross-validated ensemble approach. With a carefully chosen library of base kernels, CVEK flexibly estimates the form of the main-effect functions from the data, and encourages test power by guarding against over-fitting under the alternative. The method is motivated by a study on the interaction between metal exposures in utero and maternal nutrition on children’s neurodevelopment in rural Bangladesh. The proposed tests identified evidence of an interaction between minerals and vitamins intake and arsenic and manganese exposures. Results suggest that the detrimental effects of these metals are most pronounced at low intake levels of the nutrients, suggesting nutritional interventions in pregnant women could mitigate the adverse impacts of in utero metal exposures on the children’s neurodevelopment. Supplementary materials for this article, including a standardized description of the materials available for reproducing the work, are available as an online supplement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-573
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Statistical Association
Volume117
Issue number538
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Cross-validation
  • Ensemble learning
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Kernel method
  • Nutrition–environment interaction

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