Mathematical background

Quick overview

Let us recap the definition of a sparse group lasso regularised machine learning algorithm. Consider the unregularised loss function \(L(\mathbf{\beta}; \mathbf{X}, \mathbf{y})\), where \(\mathbf{\beta}\) is the model coefficients, \(\mathbf{X}\) is the data matrix and \(\mathbf{y}\) is the target vector (or matrix in the case of multiple regression/classification algorithms). Furthermore, we assume that \(\mathbf{\beta} = \left[\mathbf{\beta}_1^T, ..., \mathbf{\beta}_G^T\right]^T\) and that \(\mathbf{X} = \left[\mathbf{X}_1^T, ..., \mathbf{X}_G^T\right]^T\), where \(\mathbf{\beta}_g\) and \(\mathbf{X}_g\) is the coefficients and data matrices corresponding to covariate group \(g\). In this case, we define the group lasso regularised loss function as

\[L(\mathbf{\beta}; \mathbf{X}, \mathbf{y}) + \lambda_1 ||\mathbf{\beta}||_1 + \lambda_2 \sum_{g \in \mathcal{G}} \sqrt{d_g} ||\mathbf{\beta}_g||_2\]

where \(\lambda_1\) is the parameter-wise regularisation penalty, \(\lambda_2\) is the group-wise regularisation penalty, \(\mathbf{\beta}_g \in \mathbf{d_g}\) and \(\mathcal{G}\) is the set of all groups.

The above regularisation penalty is nice in the sense that it promotes that a sparse set of groups are chosen for the regularisation coefficients [1]. However, the non-continuous derivative makes the optimisation procedure much more complicated than with say a Ridge penalty (i.e. squared 2-norm penalty). One common algorithm used to solve this optimisation problem is group coordinate descent, in which the optimisation problem is solved for each group separately, in an alternating fashion. However, I decided to use the fast iterative soft thresholding (FISTA) algorithm [2] with the gradient-based restarting scheme given in [3]. This is regarded as one of the best algorithms to solve optimisation problems on the form

\[\text{arg} \min_{\mathbf{\beta}} L(\mathbf{\beta}) + R(\mathbf{\beta}),\]

where \(L\) is a convex, differentiable function with Lipschitz continuous gradient and \(R\) is a convex lower semicontinouous function.

Details on FISTA

There are three essential parts of having an efficient implementation of the FISTA algorithm. First and foremost, we need an efficient way to compute the gradient of the loss function. Next, and just as important, we need to be able to compute the proximal map of the regulariser efficiently. That is, we need to know how to compute

\[prox(\mathbf{\beta}) = \text{arg} \min_{\hat{\mathbf{\beta}}} R(\hat{\mathbf{\beta}}) + \frac{1}{2}||\hat{\mathbf{\beta}} - \mathbf{\beta}||_2^2\]

efficiently. To compute the proximal map for the sparse group lasso regulariser, we use the following identity from [4]:

\[prox_{\lambda_1 ||\mathbf{\cdot}||_1 + \lambda_2 \sum_g w_g ||\mathbf{\cdot}||}(\mathbf{\beta}) = prox_{\lambda_2 \sum_g w_g ||\mathbf{\cdot}||}(prox_{\lambda_1 ||\mathbf{\cdot}||_1}(\mathbf{\beta}),\]

where \(prox_{\lambda_1 ||\mathbf{\cdot}||_1 + \lambda_2 \sum_g w_g ||\mathbf{\cdot}||}\) is the proximal map for the sparse group lasso regulariser, \(prox_{\lambda_2 \sum_g w_g ||\mathbf{\cdot}||}\) is the proximal map for the group lasso regulariser and \(prox_{\lambda_1 ||\mathbf{\cdot}||_1\) is the proximal map for the lasso regulariser. For more information on the proximal map, see [5] or [6]. Finally, we need a Lipschitz bound for the gradient of the loss function, since this is used to compute the step-length of the optimisation procedure. Luckily, this can also be estimated using a line-search.

Unfortunately, the FISTA algorithm is not stable in the mini-batch case, making it inefficient for extremely large datasets. However, in my experiments, I have found that it still recovers the correct sparsity patterns in the data when used in a mini-batch fashion for the group lasso problem. At least so long as the mini-batches are relatively large.

Computing the Lipschitz coefficients

The Lipschitz coefficient of the gradient to the sum-of-squares loss is given by \(\sigma_1^2\), where \(\sigma_1\) is the largest singular value of the data matrix.

For logistic regression, we use the line search algorithm presented in [2] to estimate the Lipschitz bound, with an initial guess given by the Frobenius norm of the data matrix.


[1]Yuan M, Lin Y. Model selection and estimation in regression with grouped variables. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Statistical Methodology). 2006 Feb;68(1):49-67.
[2](1, 2) Beck A, Teboulle M. A fast iterative shrinkage-thresholding algorithm for linear inverse problems. SIAM journal on imaging sciences. 2009 Mar 4;2(1):183-202.
[3]O’Donoghue B, Candes E. Adaptive restart for accelerated gradient schemes. Foundations of computational mathematics. 2015 Jun 1;15(3):715-32.
[4]Yuan L, Liu J, Ye J. (2011), Efficient methods for overlapping group lasso. Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems (pp. 352-360).
[5]Parikh, N., & Boyd, S. (2014). Proximal algorithms. Foundations and Trends in Optimization, 1(3), 127-239.
[6]Beck, A. (2017). First-order methods in optimization (Vol. 25). SIAM.