Communications in Information and Systems

Volume 21 (2021)

Number 4

Trajectorial dissipation and gradient flow for the relative entropy in Markov chains

Pages: 481 – 536



Ioannis Karatzas (Department of Mathematics, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., U.S.A.)

Jan Maas (Institute of Science and Technology (IST), Klosterneuburg, Austria)

Walter Schachermayer (Faculty of Mathematics, University of Vienna, Austria)


We study the temporal dissipation of variance and relative entropy for ergodic Markov Chains in continuous time, and compute explicitly the corresponding dissipation rates. These are identified, as is well known, in the case of the variance in terms of an appropriate Hilbertian norm; and in the case of the relative entropy, in terms of a Dirichlet form which morphs into a version of the familiar Fisher information under conditions of detailed balance. Here we obtain trajectorial versions of these results, valid along almost every path of the random motion and most transparent in the backwards direction of time. Martingale arguments and time reversal play crucial roles, as in the recent work of Karatzas, Schachermayer and Tschiderer for conservative diffusions. Extensions are developed to general “convex divergences” and to countable state-spaces. The steepest descent and gradient flow properties for the variance, the relative entropy, and appropriate generalizations, are studied along with their respective geometries under conditions of detailed balance, leading to a very direct proof for the HWI inequality of Otto and Villani in the present context.

I.K. acknowledges support from the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant NSF-DMS-20-04997.

J.M. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 716117) and from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) through project F65.

W.S. acknowledges support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) under grant P28861 and by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) through projects MA14-008 and MA16-021.

Received 27 May 2020

Published 4 June 2021