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Gradient Descent for Spiking Neural Networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

Most large-scale network models use neurons with static nonlinearities that produce analog output, despite the fact that information processing in the brain is predominantly carried out by dynamic neurons that produce discrete pulses called spikes. Research in spike-based computation has been impeded by the lack of efficient supervised learning algorithm for spiking neural networks. Here, we present a gradient descent method for optimizing spiking network models by introducing a differentiable formulation of spiking dynamics and deriving the exact gradient calculation. For demonstration, we trained recurrent spiking networks on two dynamic tasks: one that requires optimizing fast (~ millisecond) spike-based interactions for efficient encoding of information, and a delayed-memory task over extended duration (~ second). The results show that the gradient descent approach indeed optimizes networks dynamics on the time scale of individual spikes as well as on behavioral time scales. In conclusion, our method yields a general purpose supervised learning algorithm for spiking neural networks, which can facilitate further investigations on spike-based computations.


Gradient Descent for Spiking Neural Networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

Most large-scale network models use neurons with static nonlinearities that produce analog output, despite the fact that information processing in the brain is predominantly carried out by dynamic neurons that produce discrete pulses called spikes. Research in spike-based computation has been impeded by the lack of efficient supervised learning algorithm for spiking neural networks. Here, we present a gradient descent method for optimizing spiking network models by introducing a differentiable formulation of spiking dynamics and deriving the exact gradient calculation. For demonstration, we trained recurrent spiking networks on two dynamic tasks: one that requires optimizing fast (~ millisecond) spike-based interactions for efficient encoding of information, and a delayed-memory task over extended duration (~ second). The results show that the gradient descent approach indeed optimizes networks dynamics on the time scale of individual spikes as well as on behavioral time scales. In conclusion, our method yields a general purpose supervised learning algorithm for spiking neural networks, which can facilitate further investigations on spike-based computations.


Learning optimal spike-based representations

Neural Information Processing Systems

How do neural networks learn to represent information? Here, we address this question by assuming that neural networks seek to generate an optimal population representation for a fixed linear decoder. We define a loss function for the quality of the population read-out and derive the dynamical equations for both neurons and synapses from the requirement to minimize this loss. The dynamical equations yield a network of integrate-and-fire neurons undergoing Hebbian plasticity. We show that, through learning, initially regular and highly correlated spike trains evolve towards Poisson-distributed and independent spike trains with much lower firing rates. The learning rule drives the network into an asynchronous, balanced regime where all inputs to the network are represented optimally for the given decoder. We show that the network dynamics and synaptic plasticity jointly balance the excitation and inhibition received by each unit as tightly as possible and, in doing so, minimize the prediction error between the inputs and the decoded outputs. In turn, spikes are only signalled whenever this prediction error exceeds a certain value, thereby implementing a predictive coding scheme. Our work suggests that several of the features reported in cortical networks, such as the high trial-to-trial variability, the balance between excitation and inhibition, and spike-timing dependent plasticity, are simply signatures of an efficient, spike-based code.


Enforcing balance allows local supervised learning in spiking recurrent networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

To predict sensory inputs or control motor trajectories, the brain must constantly learn temporal dynamics based on error feedback. However, it remains unclear how such supervised learning is implemented in biological neural networks. Learning in recurrent spiking networks is notoriously difficult because local changes in connectivity may have an unpredictable effect on the global dynamics. The most commonly used learning rules, such as temporal back-propagation, are not local and thus not biologically plausible. Furthermore, reproducing the Poisson-like statistics of neural responses requires the use of networks with balanced excitation and inhibition. Such balance is easily destroyed during learning. Using a top-down approach, we show how networks of integrate-and-fire neurons can learn arbitrary linear dynamical systems by feeding back their error as a feed-forward input. The network uses two types of recurrent connections: fast and slow. The fast connections learn to balance excitation and inhibition using a voltage-based plasticity rule. The slow connections are trained to minimize the error feedback using a current-based Hebbian learning rule. Importantly, the balance maintained by fast connections is crucial to ensure that global error signals are available locally in each neuron, in turn resulting in a local learning rule for the slow connections. This demonstrates that spiking networks can learn complex dynamics using purely local learning rules, using E/I balance as the key rather than an additional constraint. The resulting network implements a given function within the predictive coding scheme, with minimal dimensions and activity.


Neuromorphic Deep Learning Machines

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

An ongoing challenge in neuromorphic computing is to devise general and computationally efficient models of inference and learning which are compatible with the spatial and temporal constraints of the brain. One increasingly popular and successful approach is to take inspiration from inference and learning algorithms used in deep neural networks. However, the workhorse of deep learning, the gradient descent Back Propagation (BP) rule, often relies on the immediate availability of network-wide information stored with high-precision memory, and precise operations that are difficult to realize in neuromorphic hardware. Remarkably, recent work showed that exact backpropagated weights are not essential for learning deep representations. Random BP replaces feedback weights with random ones and encourages the network to adjust its feed-forward weights to learn pseudo-inverses of the (random) feedback weights. Building on these results, we demonstrate an event-driven random BP (eRBP) rule that uses an error-modulated synaptic plasticity for learning deep representations in neuromorphic computing hardware. The rule requires only one addition and two comparisons for each synaptic weight using a two-compartment leaky Integrate & Fire (I&F) neuron, making it very suitable for implementation in digital or mixed-signal neuromorphic hardware. Our results show that using eRBP, deep representations are rapidly learned, achieving nearly identical classification accuracies compared to artificial neural network simulations on GPUs, while being robust to neural and synaptic state quantizations during learning.