Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mathematical Sciences

First Committee Member

Kaushik Ghosh

Second Committee Member

Hokwon Cho

Third Committee Member

Amei Amei

Fourth Committee Member

Guogen Shan

Number of Pages



Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods form a rich class of computational techniques that help its user ascertain samples from target distributions when direct sampling is not possible or when their closed forms are intractable. Over the years, MCMC methods have been used in innumerable situations due to their flexibility and generalizability, even in situations involving nonlinear and/or highly parametrized models. In this dissertation, two major works relating to MCMC methods are presented.

The first involves the development of a method to identify the number and directions of nerve fibers using diffusion-weighted MRI measurements. For this, the biological problem is first formulated as a model selection and estimation problem. Using the framework of reversible jump MCMC, a novel Bayesian scheme that performs both the above tasks simultaneously using customizable priors and proposal distributions is proposed. The proposed method allows users to set a prior level of spatial separation between the nerve fibers, allowing more crossing paths to be detected when desired or a lower number to potentially only detect robust nerve tracts. Hence, estimation that is specific to a given region of interest within the brain can be performed. In simulated examples, the method has been shown to resolve up to four fibers even in instances of highly noisy data. Comparative analysis with other state-of-the-art methods on in-vivo data showed the method's ability to detect more crossing nerve fibers.

The second work involves the construction of an MCMC algorithm that efficiently performs (Bayesian) sampling of parameters with support constraints. The method works by embedding a transformation called inversion in a sphere within the Metropolis-Hastings sampler. This creates an image of the constrained support that is amenable to sampling using standard proposals such as Gaussian. The proposed strategy is tested on three domains: the standard simplex, a sector of an n-sphere, and hypercubes. In each domain, a comparison is made with existing sampling techniques.


Ball-and-stick; Bayesian sampling; Computational statistics; Diffusion Tensor Imaging; Markov chain monte carlo; Posterior simulation


Biostatistics | Mathematics | Statistics and Probability

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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