Fisher information theory for parameter estimation in single molecule microscopy: tutorial

J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis. 2016 Jul 1;33(7):B36-57. doi: 10.1364/JOSAA.33.000B36.


Estimation of a parameter of interest from image data represents a task that is commonly carried out in single molecule microscopy data analysis. The determination of the positional coordinates of a molecule from its image, for example, forms the basis of standard applications such as single molecule tracking and localization-based super-resolution image reconstruction. Assuming that the estimator used recovers, on average, the true value of the parameter, its accuracy, or standard deviation, is then at best equal to the square root of the Cramér-Rao lower bound. The Cramér-Rao lower bound can therefore be used as a benchmark in the evaluation of the accuracy of an estimator. Additionally, as its value can be computed and assessed for different experimental settings, it is useful as an experimental design tool. This tutorial demonstrates a mathematical framework that has been specifically developed to calculate the Cramér-Rao lower bound for estimation problems in single molecule microscopy and, more broadly, fluorescence microscopy. The material includes a presentation of the photon detection process that underlies all image data, various image data models that describe images acquired with different detector types, and Fisher information expressions that are necessary for the calculation of the lower bound. Throughout the tutorial, examples involving concrete estimation problems are used to illustrate the effects of various factors on the accuracy of parameter estimation and, more generally, to demonstrate the flexibility of the mathematical framework.