Total variation-penalized Poisson likelihood estimation for ill-posed problems

Johnathan M. Bardsley, Aaron Luttman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The noise contained in data measured by imaging instruments is often primarily of Poisson type. This motivates, in many cases, the use of the Poisson negative-log likelihood function in place of the ubiquitous least squares data fidelity when solving image deblurring problems. We assume that the underlying blurring operator is compact, so that, as in the least squares case, the resulting minimization problem is ill-posed and must be regularized. In this paper, we focus on total variation regularization and show that the problem of computing the minimizer of the resulting total variation-penalized Poisson likelihood functional is well-posed. We then prove that, as the errors in the data and in the blurring operator tend to zero, the resulting minimizers converge to the minimizer of the exact likelihood function. Finally, the practical effectiveness of the approach is demonstrated on synthetically generated data, and a nonnegatively constrained, projected quasi-Newton method is introduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-59
Number of pages25
JournalAdvances in Computational Mathematics
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Ill-posed problems
  • Image deblurring
  • Maximum likelihood estimation
  • Nonnegatively constrained minimization
  • Total variation regularization


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