Mixed Hamiltonian Monte Carlo for Mixed Discrete and Continuous Variables

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Guangyao Zhou


Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC) has emerged as a powerful Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method to sample from complex continuous distributions. However, a fundamental limitation of HMC is that it can not be applied to distributions with mixed discrete and continuous variables. In this paper, we propose mixed HMC (M-HMC) as a general framework to address this limitation. M-HMC is a novel family of MCMC algorithms that evolves the discrete and continuous variables in tandem, allowing more frequent updates of discrete variables while maintaining HMC's ability to suppress random-walk behavior. We establish M-HMC's theoretical properties, and present an efficient implementation with Laplace momentum that introduces minimal overhead compared to existing HMC methods. The superior performances of M-HMC over existing methods are demonstrated with numerical experiments on Gaussian mixture models (GMMs), variable selection in Bayesian logistic regression (BLR), and correlated topic models (CTMs).