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Deep Learning without Weight Transport

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Current algorithms for deep learning probably cannot run in the brain because they rely on weight transport, where forward-path neurons transmit their synaptic weights to a feedback path, in a way that is likely impossible biologically. An algorithm called feedback alignment achieves deep learning without weight transport by using random feedback weights, but it performs poorly on hard visual-recognition tasks. Here we describe two mechanisms -- a neural circuit called a weight mirror and a version of an algorithm proposed by Kolen and Pollack in 1994 -- both of which let the feedback path learn appropriate synaptic weights quickly and accurately even in large networks, without weight transport or complex wiring. Tested on the ImageNet visual-recognition task, these mechanisms outperform both feedback alignment and the newer sign-symmetry method, and nearly match backprop, the standard algorithm of deep learning, which uses weight transport.


Deep Learning without Weight Transport

Neural Information Processing Systems

Current algorithms for deep learning probably cannot run in the brain because they rely on weight transport, where forward-path neurons transmit their synaptic weights to a feedback path, in a way that is likely impossible biologically. An algorithm called feedback alignment achieves deep learning without weight transport by using random feedback weights, but it performs poorly on hard visual-recognition tasks. Here we describe two mechanisms -- a neural circuit called a weight mirror and a modification of an algorithm proposed by Kolen and Pollack in 1994 -- both of which let the feedback path learn appropriate synaptic weights quickly and accurately even in large networks, without weight transport or complex wiring. Tested on the ImageNet visual-recognition task, these mechanisms outperform both feedback alignment and the newer sign-symmetry method, and nearly match backprop, the standard algorithm of deep learning, which uses weight transport. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.


Feedback alignment in deep convolutional networks

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Ongoing studies have identified similarities between neural representations in biological networks and in deep artificial neural networks. This has led to renewed interest in developing analogies between the backpropagation learning algorithm used to train artificial networks and the synaptic plasticity rules operative in the brain. These efforts are challenged by biologically implausible features of backpropagation, one of which is a reliance on symmetric forward and backward synaptic weights. A number of methods have been proposed that do not rely on weight symmetry but, thus far, these have failed to scale to deep convolutional networks and complex data. We identify principal obstacles to the scalability of such algorithms and introduce several techniques to mitigate them. We demonstrate that a modification of the feedback alignment method that enforces a weaker form of weight symmetry, one that requires agreement of weight sign but not magnitude, can achieve performance competitive with backpropagation. Our results complement those of Bartunov et al. (2018) and Xiao et al. (2018b) and suggest that mechanisms that promote alignment of feedforward and feedback weights are critical for learning in deep networks.


Assessing the Scalability of Biologically-Motivated Deep Learning Algorithms and Architectures

Neural Information Processing Systems

The backpropagation of error algorithm (BP) is impossible to implement in a real brain. The recent success of deep networks in machine learning and AI, however, has inspired proposals for understanding how the brain might learn across multiple layers, and hence how it might approximate BP. As of yet, none of these proposals have been rigorously evaluated on tasks where BP-guided deep learning has proved critical, or in architectures more structured than simple fully-connected networks. Here we present results on scaling up biologically motivated models of deep learning on datasets which need deep networks with appropriate architectures to achieve good performance. We present results on the MNIST, CIFAR-10, and ImageNet datasets and explore variants of target-propagation (TP) and feedback alignment (FA) algorithms, and explore performance in both fully- and locally-connected architectures. We also introduce weight-transport-free variants of difference target propagation (DTP) modified to remove backpropagation from the penultimate layer. Many of these algorithms perform well for MNIST, but for CIFAR and ImageNet we find that TP and FA variants perform significantly worse than BP, especially for networks composed of locally connected units, opening questions about whether new architectures and algorithms are required to scale these approaches. Our results and implementation details help establish baselines for biologically motivated deep learning schemes going forward.


Assessing the Scalability of Biologically-Motivated Deep Learning Algorithms and Architectures

Neural Information Processing Systems

The backpropagation of error algorithm (BP) is impossible to implement in a real brain. The recent success of deep networks in machine learning and AI, however, has inspired proposals for understanding how the brain might learn across multiple layers, and hence how it might approximate BP. As of yet, none of these proposals have been rigorously evaluated on tasks where BP-guided deep learning has proved critical, or in architectures more structured than simple fully-connected networks. Here we present results on scaling up biologically motivated models of deep learning on datasets which need deep networks with appropriate architectures to achieve good performance. We present results on the MNIST, CIFAR-10, and ImageNet datasets and explore variants of target-propagation (TP) and feedback alignment (FA) algorithms, and explore performance in both fully- and locally-connected architectures. We also introduce weight-transport-free variants of difference target propagation (DTP) modified to remove backpropagation from the penultimate layer. Many of these algorithms perform well for MNIST, but for CIFAR and ImageNet we find that TP and FA variants perform significantly worse than BP, especially for networks composed of locally connected units, opening questions about whether new architectures and algorithms are required to scale these approaches. Our results and implementation details help establish baselines for biologically motivated deep learning schemes going forward.