The Annals of Statistics

Minimax estimation via wavelet shrinkage

David L. Donoho and Iain M. Johnstone

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We attempt to recover an unknown function from noisy, sampled data. Using orthonormal bases of compactly supported wavelets, we develop a nonlinear method which works in the wavelet domain by simple nonlinear shrinkage of the empirical wavelet coefficients. The shrinkage can be tuned to be nearly minimax over any member of a wide range of Triebel- and Besov-type smoothness constraints and asymptotically mini-max over Besov bodies with $p \leq q$. Linear estimates cannot achieve even the minimax rates over Triebel and Besov classes with $p<2$, so the method can significantly outperform every linear method (e.g., kernel, smoothing spline, sieve in a minimax sense). Variants of our method based on simple threshold nonlinear estimators are nearly minimax. Our method possesses the interpretation of spatial adaptivity; it reconstructs using a kernel which may vary in shape and bandwidth from point to point, depending on the data. Least favorable distributions for certain of the Triebel and Besov scales generate objects with sparse wavelet transforms. Many real objects have similarly sparse transforms, which suggests that these minimax results are relevant for practical problems. Sequels to this paper, which was first drafted in November 1990, discuss practical implementation, spatial adaptation properties, universal near minimaxity and applications to inverse problems.

Article information

Ann. Statist. Volume 26, Number 3 (1998), 879-921.

First available in Project Euclid: 21 June 2002

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Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier

Primary: 62G07 62C20: Minimax procedures
Secondary: 62G20 41A30: Approximation by other special function classes

Minimax decision theory minimax Bayes estimation Besov Hölder Sobolev Triebel spaces nonlinear estimation white noise model nonparametric regression, orthonormal bases of compactly supported wavelets renormalization white noise approximation


Donoho, David L.; Johnstone, Iain M. Minimax estimation via wavelet shrinkage. Ann. Statist. 26 (1998), no. 3, 879--921. doi:10.1214/aos/1024691081.

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