Whittle likelihood

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In statistics, Whittle likelihood is an approximation to the likelihood function of a stationary Gaussian time series. It is named after the mathematician and statistician Peter Whittle, who introduced it in his PhD thesis in 1951. [1] It is commonly utilized in time series analysis and signal processing for parameter estimation and signal detection.

Statistics study of the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data

Statistics is a branch of mathematics dealing with data collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation. In applying statistics to, for example, a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with a statistical population or a statistical model process to be studied. Populations can be diverse topics such as "all people living in a country" or "every atom composing a crystal". Statistics deals with every aspect of data, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments. See glossary of probability and statistics.

In statistics, a likelihood function is a function of parameters within the parameter space that describes the probability of obtaining the observed data . It is proportional—up to a function of only the observed data—to the joint probability distribution of given . The likelihood principle states that all relevant information for inference about is contained in the likelihood function for the observed data given the assumed statistical model. The case for using likelihood in the foundation of statistics was first made by the founder of modern statistics, R. A. Fisher, who believed it to be a self-contained framework for statistical modelling and inference. But the likelihood function also plays a fundamental role in frequentist and Bayesian statistics.

Time series Sequence of data over time

A time series is a series of data points indexed in time order. Most commonly, a time series is a sequence taken at successive equally spaced points in time. Thus it is a sequence of discrete-time data. Examples of time series are heights of ocean tides, counts of sunspots, and the daily closing value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.



In a stationary Gaussian time series model, the likelihood function is (as usual in Gaussian models) a function of the associated mean and covariance parameters. With a large number () of observations, the () covariance matrix may become very large, making computations very costly in practice. However, due to stationarity, the covariance matrix has a rather simple structure, and by using an approximation, computations may be simplified considerably (from to ). [2] The idea effectively boils down to assuming a heteroscedastic zero-mean Gaussian model in Fourier domain; the model formulation is based on the time series' discrete Fourier transform and its power spectral density. [3] [4] [5]

In probability theory and statistics, a Gaussian process is a stochastic process, such that every finite collection of those random variables has a multivariate normal distribution, i.e. every finite linear combination of them is normally distributed. The distribution of a Gaussian process is the joint distribution of all those random variables, and as such, it is a distribution over functions with a continuous domain, e.g. time or space.

Heteroscedasticity statistical property in which some subpopulations in a collection of random variables have different variabilities from others

In statistics, a collection of random variables is heteroscedastic if there are sub-populations that have different variabilities from others. Here "variability" could be quantified by the variance or any other measure of statistical dispersion. Thus heteroscedasticity is the absence of homoscedasticity.

Discrete Fourier transform technique used in advanced mathematics

In mathematics, the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) converts a finite sequence of equally-spaced samples of a function into a same-length sequence of equally-spaced samples of the discrete-time Fourier transform (DTFT), which is a complex-valued function of frequency. The interval at which the DTFT is sampled is the reciprocal of the duration of the input sequence. An inverse DFT is a Fourier series, using the DTFT samples as coefficients of complex sinusoids at the corresponding DTFT frequencies. It has the same sample-values as the original input sequence. The DFT is therefore said to be a frequency domain representation of the original input sequence. If the original sequence spans all the non-zero values of a function, its DTFT is continuous, and the DFT provides discrete samples of one cycle. If the original sequence is one cycle of a periodic function, the DFT provides all the non-zero values of one DTFT cycle.


Let be a stationary Gaussian time series with (one-sided) power spectral density , where is even and samples are taken at constant sampling intervals . Let be the (complex-valued) discrete Fourier transform (DFT) of the time series. Then for the Whittle likelihood one effectively assumes independent zero-mean Gaussian distributions for all with variances for the real and imaginary parts given by

where is the th Fourier frequency. This approximate model immediately leads to the (logarithmic) likelihood function

where denotes the absolute value with . [3] [4] [6]

Special case of a known noise spectrum

In case the noise spectrum is assumed a-priori known, and noise properties are not to be inferred from the data, the likelihood function may be simplified further by ignoring constant terms, leading to the sum-of-squares expression

This expression also is the basis for the common matched filter.

In signal processing, a matched filter is obtained by correlating a known delayed signal, or template, with an unknown signal to detect the presence of the template in the unknown signal. This is equivalent to convolving the unknown signal with a conjugated time-reversed version of the template. The matched filter is the optimal linear filter for maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in the presence of additive stochastic noise.

Accuracy of approximation

The Whittle likelihood in general is only an approximation, it is only exact if the spectrum is constant, i.e., in the trivial case of white noise. The efficiency of the Whittle approximation always depends on the particular circumstances. [7] [8]

White noise random signal having equal intensity at different frequencies, giving it a constant power spectral density

In signal processing, white noise is a random signal having equal intensity at different frequencies, giving it a constant power spectral density. The term is used, with this or similar meanings, in many scientific and technical disciplines, including physics, acoustical engineering, telecommunications, and statistical forecasting. White noise refers to a statistical model for signals and signal sources, rather than to any specific signal. White noise draws its name from white light, although light that appears white generally does not have a flat power spectral density over the visible band.

In the comparison of various statistical procedures, efficiency is a measure of quality of an estimator, of an experimental design, or of a hypothesis testing procedure. Essentially, a more efficient estimator, experiment, or test needs fewer observations than a less efficient one to achieve a given performance. This article primarily deals with efficiency of estimators.

Note that due to linearity of the Fourier transform, Gaussianity in Fourier domain implies Gaussianity in time domain and vice versa. What makes the Whittle likelihood only approximately accurate is related to the sampling theorem—the effect of Fourier-transforming only a finite number of data points, which also manifests itself as spectral leakage in related problems (and which may be ameliorated using the same methods, namely, windowing). In the present case, the implicit periodicity assumption implies correlation between the first and last samples ( and ), which are effectively treated as "neighbouring" samples (like and ).


Parameter estimation

Whittle's likelihood is commonly used to estimate signal parameters for signals that are buried in non-white noise. The noise spectrum then may be assumed known, [9] or it may be inferred along with the signal parameters. [4] [6]

Signal detection

Signal detection is commonly performed utilizing the matched filter, which is based on the Whittle likelihood for the case of a known noise power spectral density. [10] [11] The matched filter effectively does a maximum-likelihood fit of the signal to the noisy data and uses the resulting likelihood ratio as the detection statistic. [12]

The matched filter may be generalized to an analogous procedure based on a Student-t distribution by also considering uncertainty (e.g. estimation uncertainty) in the noise spectrum. On the technical side, this entails repeated or iterative matched-filtering. [12]

Spectrum estimation

The Whittle likelihood is also applicable for estimation of the noise spectrum, either alone or in conjunction with signal parameters. [13] [14]

See also

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