Laplace based approximate posterior inference for differential equation models

Sarat C. Dass, Jaeyong Lee, Kyoungjae Lee, Jonghun Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Ordinary differential equations are arguably the most popular and useful mathematical tool for describing physical and biological processes in the real world. Often, these physical and biological processes are observed with errors, in which case the most natural way to model such data is via regression where the mean function is defined by an ordinary differential equation believed to provide an understanding of the underlying process. These regression based dynamical models are called differential equation models. Parameter inference from differential equation models poses computational challenges mainly due to the fact that analytic solutions to most differential equations are not available. In this paper, we propose an approximation method for obtaining the posterior distribution of parameters in differential equation models. The approximation is done in two steps. In the first step, the solution of a differential equation is approximated by the general one-step method which is a class of numerical numerical methods for ordinary differential equations including the Euler and the Runge-Kutta procedures; in the second step, nuisance parameters are marginalized using Laplace approximation. The proposed Laplace approximated posterior gives a computationally fast alternative to the full Bayesian computational scheme (such as Makov Chain Monte Carlo) and produces more accurate and stable estimators than the popular smoothing methods (called collocation methods) based on frequentist procedures. For a theoretical support of the proposed method, we prove that the Laplace approximated posterior converges to the actual posterior under certain conditions and analyze the relation between the order of numerical error and its Laplace approximation. The proposed method is tested on simulated data sets and compared with the other existing methods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-698
Number of pages20
JournalStatistics and Computing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Ordinary differential equation
  • Posterior computation
  • Laplace approximation


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