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Comparing hitting time behaviour of Markov jump processes and their diffusion approximations

Szpruch, Lukasz and Higham, D.J. (2010) Comparing hitting time behaviour of Markov jump processes and their diffusion approximations. Multiscale Modeling and Simulation: A SIAM Interdisciplinary Journal, 8 (2). pp. 605-621. ISSN 1540-3459

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Abstract

Markov jump processes can provide accurate models in many applications, notably chemical and biochemical kinetics, and population dynamics. Stochastic differential equations offer a computationally efficient way to approximate these processes. It is therefore of interest to establish results that shed light on the extent to which the jump and diffusion models agree. In this work we focus on mean hitting time behavior in a thermodynamic limit. We study three simple types of reactions where analytical results can be derived, and we find that the match between mean hitting time behavior of the two models is vastly different in each case. In particular, for a degradation reaction we find that the relative discrepancy decays extremely slowly, namely, as the inverse of the logarithm of the system size. After giving some further computational results, we conclude by pointing out that studying hitting times allows the Markov jump and stochastic differential equation regimes to be compared in a manner that avoids pitfalls that may invalidate other approaches.