Langevin dynamics in inhomogeneous media: Re-examining the Itô-Stratonovich dilemma

Oded Farago, Niels Grønbech-Jensen

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39 Scopus citations


The diffusive dynamics of a particle in a medium with space-dependent friction coefficient is studied within the framework of the inertial Langevin equation. In this description, the ambiguous interpretation of the stochastic integral, known as the Itô-Stratonovich dilemma, is avoided since all interpretations converge to the same solution in the limit of small time steps. We use a newly developed method for Langevin simulations to measure the probability distribution of a particle diffusing in a flat potential. Our results reveal that both the Itô and Stratonovich interpretations converge very slowly to the uniform equilibrium distribution for vanishing time step sizes. Three other conventions exhibit significantly improved accuracy: (i) the "isothermal" (Hänggi) convention, (ii) the Stratonovich convention corrected by a drift term, and (iii) a newly proposed convention employing two different effective friction coefficients representing two different averages of the friction function during the time step. We argue that the most physically accurate dynamical description is provided by the third convention, in which the particle experiences a drift originating from the dissipation instead of the fluctuation term. This feature is directly related to the fact that the drift is a result of an inertial effect that cannot be well understood in the Brownian, overdamped limit of the Langevin equation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number013301
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number1
StatePublished - 6 Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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