\Gamma-convergence of Onsager-Machlup functionals. Part I: With applications to maximum a posteriori estimation in Bayesian inverse problems
The Bayesian solution to a statistical inverse problem can be summarised by a mode of the posterior distribution, i.e. a MAP estimator. The MAP estimator essentially coincides with the (regularised) variational solution to the inverse problem, seen as minimisation of the Onsager-Machlup functional of the posterior measure. An open problem in the stability analysis of inverse problems is to establish a relationship between the convergence properties of solutions obtained by the variational approach and by the Bayesian approach. To address this problem, we propose a general convergence theory for modes that is based on the $\Gamma$-convergence of Onsager-Machlup functionals, and apply this theory to Bayesian inverse problems with Gaussian and edge-preserving Besov priors. Part II of this paper considers more general prior distributions.