I've been trying to prove that if $\mathbf{x}$ is a random variable with multivariable normal distribution $Pr(\mathbf{x}) = Norm_\mathbf{x}[\mathbf{\mu}, \mathbf{\Sigma}]$ and $\mathbf{y}$ is a random variable where $\mathbf{y} = \mathbf{Ax} + \mathbf{b}$, then $\mathbf{y}$ has distribution

$$Pr(\mathbf{y}) = Norm_\mathbf{y}[\mathbf{A\mu} + \mathbf{b}, \mathbf{A \Sigma A}^T]$$

Algebraically, I've proven that

$$Norm_\mathbf{x}[\mathbf{\mu}, \mathbf{\Sigma}] = \frac{\mid \mathbf{A \Sigma A}^T \mid}{\mid \mathbf{A} \mid}Norm_\mathbf{y}[\mathbf{A\mu} + \mathbf{b}, \mathbf{A \Sigma A}^T]$$

and if the right side is normalized with respect to $\mathbf{y}$, it results in

$$Norm_\mathbf{y}[\mathbf{A\mu} + \mathbf{b}, \mathbf{A \Sigma A}^T]$$

Intiuitively, I understand this as taking my normal distribution over $\mathbf{x}$, getting all of the relative frequencies of $\mathbf{y}$ from those, then renormalizing. Nonetheless, I would like to turn this into a more formal proof, rather than arguing "relative frequencies" - is there a way to formalize my proof, or is this as formal as it can get? I like this proof here, but the issue is that we have to assume $\mathbf{y}$ is be normally distributed.

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    $\begingroup$ Just use characteristic function $\endgroup$
    – Mhr
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 5:51

2 Answers 2


I deprecate your dreadful notation, it will not help you achieve any kind of rigor at all.

If $\mathbf X$ is a (jointly continuous) vector random variable with density function $f_{\mathbf X}({\mathbf x})$, then with $\mathbf G$ being an invertible matrix, the density function of $\mathbf{Y} =\mathbf{XG}$ is $$f_{\mathbf Y}({\mathbf y}) = \frac{f_{\mathbf X}\left({\mathbf y\mathbf G^{-1}}\right)}{\vert\det{\mathbf G}\vert}.\tag{1}$$ (Note that I am using row vectors instead of the column vectors that have been claimed to be more common usage in statistical circles).

This is a general result that holds regardless of whether multivariate normality is assumed or not. Also, the mean vector $E[\mathbf Y]$ of $\mathbf Y$ is related to the mean vector $E[\mathbf X]$ as $$E[\mathbf Y] = E[\mathbf{XG}] = E[\mathbf{X}]\mathbf{G}\tag{2}$$ while the covariance matrix is \begin{align}\Sigma_{\mathbf Y} &= E\left[\left(\mathbf Y - E[\mathbf Y]\right)^T\left(\mathbf Y - E[\mathbf Y]\right)\right]\\ &= E\left[\left(\mathbf {XG} - E[\mathbf X]\mathbf G\right)^T\left(\mathbf {XG} - E[\mathbf X]\mathbf G\right)\right]\\ &= \mathbf G^T E\left[\left(\mathbf {X} - E[\mathbf X]\right)^T \left(\mathbf {X} - E[\mathbf X]\right)\right]\mathbf G\\ &= \mathbf G^T\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\mathbf G. \tag{3} \end{align} For the special case of $\mathbf X$ having a $n$-variate normal distribution and the covariance matrix $\Sigma_{\mathbf X}$ being a strictly positive invertible $n\times n$ matrix, the density function $f_{\mathbf X}({\mathbf x})$ is of the form $$f_{\mathbf X}({\mathbf x}) = \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\det\left(\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\right)}} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf {x} - E[\mathbf X]\right) \Sigma_{\mathbf X}^{-1}\left(\mathbf {x} - E[\mathbf X]\right)^T\right] \tag{4}$$ and so from $(1)$ we get \begin{align} f_{\mathbf Y}({\mathbf y}) &= \frac{f_{\mathbf X}\left({\mathbf y\mathbf G^{-1}}\right)}{\vert\det{\mathbf G}\vert}\\ &= \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\det\left(\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\right)} \vert\det{\mathbf G}\vert} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf{yG}^{-1} - E[\mathbf X]\right) \Sigma_{\mathbf X}^{-1}\left(\mathbf{yG}^{-1} - E[\mathbf X]\right)^T\right]\\ &= \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\det\left(\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\right)} \vert\det{\mathbf G}\vert^{1/2}\vert\det{\mathbf G}^T\vert^{1/2}} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf{yG}^{-1} - E[\mathbf X]\right) \Sigma_{\mathbf X}^{-1}\left(\mathbf{yG}^{-1} - E[\mathbf X]\right)^T\right]\\ &= \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\left|\det\left(\mathbf G^T\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\mathbf G\right)\right|}} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf X]\mathbf G\right) \mathbf G^{-1} \Sigma_{\mathbf X}^{-1}\left(\left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf X]\mathbf G\right)\mathbf G^{-1}\right)^T\right]\\ &= \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\left|\det\left(\mathbf G^T\Sigma_{\mathbf X}\mathbf G\right)\right|}} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf Y]\right) \mathbf G^{-1} \Sigma_{\mathbf X}^{-1}\left(\mathbf G^{-1}\right)^T\left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf Y]\right)^T\right]\\ &= \frac{1}{(2\pi)^{n/2}\sqrt{\left|\det\Sigma_{\mathbf Y}\right|}} \exp\left[-\frac 12 \left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf Y]\right) \Sigma_{\mathbf Y}^{-1}\left(\mathbf{y} - E[\mathbf Y]\right)^T\right] \end{align} which shows that $\mathbf Y = \mathbf{XG}$ also has a $n$-variate normal density with mean vector and covariance matrix as given in (2) and (3).

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    $\begingroup$ This is truly one of the most beautiful, comprehensive answers I have ever seen. Thank you for your care in answering my question - truly, it means a lot. The notation (which I hate as well) was in an experimental Computer Vision book available in PDF form for free online - do you have any advice for a better free resource I could use to learn? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Removed
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ One comment on this solution is that it's not immediately obvious that the convention here is for $X$, $Y$, $x$, and $y$ to be row vectors rather than column vectors (column vector notation is vastly more common in my experience.) A comment to that effect would make things clearer. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @BrianBorchers Oh, OK... $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 18:09

This can be shown very succinctly by using the characteristic function of distributions. Let $\phi_X(t) = E[ \exp(i t ^ \mathsf T X) ]$ be the characteristic function of a random variable $X \in \mathbb R^n$.

If $x$ is normally distributed $x \sim \mathcal N(\mu, \Sigma)$, then we have $\phi_x(t) = \exp \Big (i t ^ \mathsf T \mu - \tfrac {1}{2} t ^ \mathsf T \Sigma t \Big )$.

If $y = A x + b$, then

\begin{align} \phi_y(t) &= E[ \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T (A x + b) \Big) ] \\ &= E[ \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T b \Big) \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T A x \Big) ] \\ &= \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T b \Big) E[ \exp \Big(i (A ^ \mathsf T t) ^ \mathsf T x \Big) ] \\ &= \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T b \Big) \phi_x (A ^ \mathsf T t) \\ &= \exp \Big(i t ^ \mathsf T b \Big) \exp \Big (i (A ^ \mathsf T t) ^ \mathsf T \mu - \tfrac {1}{2} (A ^ \mathsf T t) ^ \mathsf T \Sigma (A ^ \mathsf T t) \Big ) \\ &= \exp \Big (i t ^ \mathsf T (A \mu + b) - \tfrac {1}{2} t ^ \mathsf T A \Sigma A ^ \mathsf T t \Big ) \\ \end{align}

Since the characteristic function uniquely defines the distribution, we have $y \sim \mathcal N(A \mu + b, A \Sigma A ^ \mathsf T)$ as wanted.


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