The generalized parton distributions, introduced nearly a decade ago, have emerged as a universal tool to describe hadrons in terms of quark and gluonic degrees of freedom. They combine the features of form factors, parton densities and distribution amplitudes-the functions used for a long time in studies of hadronic structure. Generalized parton distributions are analogous to the phase-space Wigner quasi-probability function of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics which encodes full information on a quantum-mechanical system. We give an extensive review of main achievements in the development of this formalism. We discuss physical interpretation and basic properties of generalized parton distributions, their modeling and QCD evolution in the leading and next-to-leading orders. We describe how these functions enter a wide class of exclusive reactions, such as electro- and photo-production of photons, lepton pairs, or mesons. The theory of these processes requires and implies full control over diverse corrections and thus we outline the progress in handling higher-order and higher-twist effects. We catalogue corresponding results and present diverse techniques for their derivations. Subsequently, we address observables that are sensitive to different characteristics of the nucleon structure in terms of generalized parton distributions. The ultimate goal of the GPD approach is to provide a three-dimensional spatial picture of the nucleon, direct measurement of the quark orbital angular momentum, and various inter- and multi-parton correlations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Physics and Astronomy