Stochastic resonance

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Reviews of Modern Physics, Volume 70, Issue 1, p.223 - 287 (1998)



Over the last two decades, stochastic resonance has continuously attracted considerable attention. The term is given to a phenomenon that is manifest in nonlinear systems whereby generally feeble input information (such as a weak signal) can be be amplified and optimized by the assistance of noise. The effect requires three basic ingredients: (i) an energetic activation barrier or, more generally, a form of threshold; (ii) a weak coherent input (such as a periodic signal); (iii) a source of noise that is inherent in the system, or that adds to the coherent input. Given these features, the response of the system undergoes resonance-like behavior as a function of the noise level; hence the name stochastic resonance. The underlying mechanism is fairly simple and robust. As a consequence, stochastic resonance has been observed in a large variety of systems, including bistable ring lasers, semiconductor devices, chemical reactions, and mechanoreceptor cells in the tail fan of a crayfish. In this paper, the authors report, interpret, and extend much of the current understanding of the theory and physics of stochastic resonance. They introduce the readers to the basic features of stochastic resonance and its recent history. Definitions of the characteristic quantities that are important to quantify stochastic resonance, together with the most important tools necessary to actually compute those quantities, are presented. The essence of classical stochastic resonance theory is presented, and important applications of stochastic resonance in nonlinear optics, solid state devices, and neurophysiology are described and put into context with stochastic resonance theory. More elaborate and recent developments of stochastic resonance theory are discussed, ranging from fundamental quantum properties—being important at low temperatures—over spatiotemporal aspects in spatially distributed systems, to realizations in chaotic maps. In conclusion the authors summarize the achievements and attempt to indicate the most promising areas for future research in theory and experiment.

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