Incorporating prior information into distributed lag nonlinear models with zero-inflated monotone regression trees

30 Jan 2023  ·  Daniel Mork, Ander Wilson ·

In environmental health research there is often interest in the effect of an exposure on a health outcome assessed on the same day and several subsequent days or lags. Distributed lag nonlinear models (DLNM) are a well-established statistical framework for estimating an exposure-lag-response function. We propose methods to allow for prior information to be incorporated into DLNMs. First, we impose a monotonicity constraint in the exposure-response at lagged time periods which matches with knowledge on how biological mechanisms respond to increased levels of exposures. Second, we introduce variable selection into the DLNM to identify lagged periods of susceptibility with respect to the outcome of interest. The variable selection approach allows for direct application of informative priors on which lags have nonzero association with the outcome. We propose a tree-of-trees model that uses two layers of trees: one for splitting the exposure time frame and one for fitting exposure-response functions over different time periods. We introduce a zero-inflated alternative to the tree splitting prior in Bayesian additive regression trees to allow for lag selection and the addition of informative priors. We develop a computational approach for efficient posterior sampling and perform a comprehensive simulation study to compare our method to existing DLNM approaches. We apply our method to estimate time-lagged extreme temperature relationships with mortality during summer or winter in Chicago, IL.

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