Feature-expression heat maps - A new visual method to explore complex associations between two variable sets

Bartholomeus C. M. (Benno) Haarman*, Rixt F. Riemersma-Van der Lek, Willem A. Nolen, R. Mendes, Hemmo A. Drexhage, Huibert Burger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Existing methods such as correlation plots and cluster heat maps are insufficient in the visual exploration of multiple associations between genetics and phenotype, which is of importance to achieve a better understanding of the pathophysiology of psychiatric and other illnesses. The implementation of a combined presentation of effect size and statistical significance in a graphical method, added to the ordering of the variables based on the effect-ordered data display principle was deemed useful by the authors to facilitate in the process of recognizing meaningful patterns in these associations.

Materials and methods: The requirements, analyses and graphical presentation of the feature-expression heat map are described. The graphs display associations of two sets of ordered variables where a one-way direction is assumed. The associations are depicted as circles representing a combination of effect size (color) and statistical significance (radius).

Results: An example dataset is presented and relation to other methods, limitations, areas of application and possible future enhancements are discussed.

Conclusion: The feature-expression heat map is a useful graphical instrument to explore associations in complex biological systems where one-way direction is assumed, such as genotype-phenotype pathophysiological models. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-161
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2015


  • Graph
  • Heat map
  • Method
  • Phenotype
  • Genotype
  • Associations
  • NEED

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