How to estimate a latent process mixed model for multivariate markers using multlcmm function

Background and definitions

Each dynamic phenomenon can be characterized by a latent process \((\Lambda(t))\) which evolves in continuous time \(t\). Sometimes, this latent process is measured through several markers so that the latent process is their common factor.

Function multlcmm treats this idea and extend the linear mixed model theory to several markers measuring the same underlying quantity, these markers not being necessarily Gaussian.

The latent process mixed model for multivariate markers

The latent process mixed model is introduced in Proust-Lima et al. (2006 - and 2013 - ).

The quantity of interest defined as a latent process is modeled according to time using a linear mixed model:

\[\Lambda(t) = X(t) \beta + Z(t)u_i +w_i(t)\]


This structural model for \(\Lambda(t)\) according to time and covariates is exactly the same as in the univariate case (see ).

Now, instead of defining one equation of observation, we define K equations of observation for the K different markers with \(Y_{ijk}\) the observation for subject \(i\), marker \(k\) and occasion \(j\). As in the univariate case, several types of markers can be handled by defining a marker-specific link function \(H_{k}\). The marker-specific equation of observation also includes potentially some contrasts \(\gamma_k\) on covariates and a marker and subject specific random intercept so that:

\[Y_{ijk} = H_{k}(~ \Lambda(t_{ijk})+ X_{cijk}\gamma_{k} + \alpha_{ik} + \epsilon_{ijk} ~ ; \eta_{k}) \]


Only continuous link functions are considered in multlcmm for the moment. These are the same as in the univariate case (in lcmm). \(H^{-1}\) is a parametric family of increasing monotonic functions among:


As in any latent variable model, the metric of the latent variable has to be defined. In contrast with lcmm function, here the variance of the first random effect \(u_i\) is set to 1 and the mean intercept (in \(\beta\)) is set to 0.


Example with cognitive process

In this example, we study cognitive trajectory over time when cognition is defined as the common factor underlying three psychometric tests: MMSE, BVRT and IST. Here the timescale is years since entry into the cohort, the trajectory is assumed quadratic in time (both at individual and population level) and the model is adjusted for \(age\) at entry. To further investigate the effect of gender, both mean effects on the common factor and differential effects (contrasts) on each marker are included (not in interaction with time in this example).

Model considered :


\[Y_{ijk} = H_k(~ \beta_{1}t_{ij} + \beta_{2}t_{ij}^2 +\beta_{3}age75_{i} + \beta_{4}male_{i} +\gamma_{k}male_{i} \\ +u_{0i}+u_{1i}t_{ij}+u_{2i}t_{ij}^2+ \alpha_{ik} + \omega_i(t_{ijk}) +\epsilon_{ijk} ~~, \eta_k)\]


Where :

\(u_{i}\tilde{}N(0,B)\) and V(\(u_{0i}\))=1, \(\omega_i(t)\) is a Brownian process, \(\alpha_{ik}\tilde{}N(0,\sigma_k^2)\) and for k = 1,2,3: \(Y_{ij1}= MMSE_{ij}\) , \(Y_{ij2}= IST_{ij}\) and \(Y_{ij3}= BVRT_{ij})\)


Comparison of the models

Objects mult_lin, mult_beta, mult_betaspl, ‘mult_splines2’ are multivariate latent process mixed models that assume the exact same trajectory for the underlying latent process but different link functions. As in the univariate case, the models can be compared using information criteria. The summarytable give us such information.


Models involving Beta transformations and splines transformations seem to fit a lot better in terms of AIC than the linear transformations showing the departure from normality.


The transformations can be plotted and compared between models:


Except from the linear transformations, all the estimation transformations are really close.


Postfit outputs


The summary of the model includes convergence, goodness of fit criteria and estimated parameters.

General latent class mixed model 
     fitted by maximum likelihood method 
multlcmm(fixed = MMSE + IST + BVRT ~ age75 + male + time + I(time^2/10) + 
    contrast(male), random = ~time + I(time^2/10), subject = "ID", 
    randomY = T, link = c("beta", "3-quant-splines", "3-quant-splines"), 
    cor = BM(time), data = paquid)
Statistical Model: 
     Dataset: paquid 
     Number of subjects: 500 
     Number of observations: 6216 
     Number of latent classes: 1 
     Number of parameters: 32  
     Link functions: Standardised Beta CdF for MMSE  
                     Quadratic I-splines with nodes 5 27 40 for IST 
                     Quadratic I-splines with nodes 0 11 15 for BVRT 
Iteration process: 
     Convergence criteria satisfied 
     Number of iterations:  32 
     Convergence criteria: parameters= 9.9e-06 
                         : likelihood= 2.6e-06 
                         : second derivatives= 2.7e-10 
Goodness-of-fit statistics: 
     maximum log-likelihood: -14373.66  
     AIC: 28811.33  
     BIC: 28946.2  
Maximum Likelihood Estimates: 
Fixed effects in the longitudinal model:

                                coef      Se   Wald p-value
intercept (not estimated)    0.00000                       
age75                       -1.09190 0.11356 -9.615 0.00000
male                         0.14430 0.11931  1.209 0.22649
time                        -1.24026 0.19053 -6.509 0.00000
I(time^2/10)                -2.39712 0.98543 -2.433 0.01499
Contrasts on male (p=3e-04)                                
MMSE                        -0.07360 0.06925 -1.063 0.28788
IST                         -0.26699 0.07855 -3.399 0.00068
BVRT**                       0.34059 0.08804  3.868 0.00011

Variance-covariance matrix of the random-effects:
(the variance of the first random effect is not estimated)
             intercept     time I(time^2/10)
intercept      1.00000                      
time           0.05620  1.53470             
I(time^2/10)  -0.77865 -5.22713     32.31794

                       coef      Se
BM standard error:  0.98003 0.13305

                                         MMSE      IST     BVRT
Residual standard error:              1.01982  0.93048  1.42284
Standard error of the random effect:  0.57605  0.85186  0.89027

Parameters of the link functions:

                    coef      Se    Wald p-value
MMSE-Beta1       1.41416 0.07051  20.056 0.00000
MMSE-Beta2      -0.25052 0.08346  -3.002 0.00269
MMSE-Beta3       0.45879 0.02586  17.742 0.00000
MMSE-Beta4       0.06439 0.00580  11.104 0.00000
IST-I-splines1  -6.51528 0.52059 -12.515 0.00000
IST-I-splines2   1.10955 0.15660   7.085 0.00000
IST-I-splines3   2.14897 0.09783  21.967 0.00000
IST-I-splines4   1.56009 0.08361  18.659 0.00000
IST-I-splines5   1.44629 0.07296  19.824 0.00000
BVRT-I-splines1 -7.31211 0.68742 -10.637 0.00000
BVRT-I-splines2  1.13660 0.26020   4.368 0.00001
BVRT-I-splines3  1.97352 0.12634  15.621 0.00000
BVRT-I-splines4  2.08216 0.09685  21.499 0.00000
BVRT-I-splines5  1.58945 0.07535  21.094 0.00000

 ** coefficient not estimated but obtained from the others as minus the sum of them 

From the estimates, the underlying cognition has a quadratic trajectory over time, older subjects at baseline have systematically lower cognitive level. There is no difference according to gender. However, there are significantly differential effects of gender on psychometric tests (p=0.0003) with a systematically higher BVRT for men and higher IST levels for women.

Variance explained

For multivariate data, the latent process is the common underlying factor of the different markers. Thus, we can compute the residual variance of each marker explained the latent process. This variance explained is conditional on the covariates and computed for a specific time.

For example, the common factor explained 42% of MMSE residual variation while it explained 26% of the BVRT residual variation at time 0.

Goodness of fit: graph of the residuals

As in any mixed model, we expect the subject-specicif residuals (bottom right panel) to be Gaussian.

To go further …

heterogeneous profiles of trajectories

The latent process mixed model for multivariate markers extends to the heterogeneous case with latent classes. The same strategy as explained with hlme (see ) can be used.

joint analysis of a time to event

The latent process mixed model for multivariate markers extends to the case of a joint model. This is done in Jointlcmm.