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Collaborating Authors

Maass, Wolfgang


Embodied Synaptic Plasticity with Online Reinforcement learning

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

The endeavor to understand the brain involves multiple collaborating research fields. Classically, synaptic plasticity rules derived by theoretical neuroscientists are evaluated in isolation on pattern classification tasks. This contrasts with the biological brain which purpose is to control a body in closed-loop. This paper contributes to bringing the fields of computational neuroscience and robotics closer together by integrating open-source software components from these two fields. The resulting framework allows to evaluate the validity of biologically-plausibe plasticity models in closed-loop robotics environments. We demonstrate this framework to evaluate Synaptic Plasticity with Online REinforcement learning (SPORE), a reward-learning rule based on synaptic sampling, on two visuomotor tasks: reaching and lane following. We show that SPORE is capable of learning to perform policies within the course of simulated hours for both tasks. Provisional parameter explorations indicate that the learning rate and the temperature driving the stochastic processes that govern synaptic learning dynamics need to be regulated for performance improvements to be retained. We conclude by discussing the recent deep reinforcement learning techniques which would be beneficial to increase the functionality of SPORE on visuomotor tasks.


Hebbian Learning of Bayes Optimal Decisions

Neural Information Processing Systems

Uncertainty is omnipresent when we perceive or interact with our environment, and the Bayesian framework provides computational methods for dealing with it. Mathematical models for Bayesian decision making typically require datastructures that are hard to implement in neural networks. This article shows that even the simplest and experimentally best supported type of synaptic plasticity, Hebbian learning, in combination with a sparse, redundant neural code, can in principle learn to infer optimal Bayesian decisions. We present a concrete Hebbian learning rule operating on log-probability ratios. Modulated by reward-signals, this Hebbian plasticity rule also provides a new perspective for understanding how Bayesian inference could support fast reinforcement learning in the brain.


Simplified Rules and Theoretical Analysis for Information Bottleneck Optimization and PCA with Spiking Neurons

Neural Information Processing Systems

We show that under suitable assumptions (primarily linearization) a simple and perspicuous online learning rule for Information Bottleneck optimization with spiking neurons can be derived. This rule performs on common benchmark tasks as well as a rather complex rule that has previously been proposed \cite{KlampflETAL:07b}. Furthermore, the transparency of this new learning rule makes a theoretical analysis of its convergence properties feasible. A variation of this learning rule (with sign changes) provides a theoretically founded method for performing Principal Component Analysis {(PCA)} with spiking neurons. By applying this rule to an ensemble of neurons, different principal components of the input can be extracted.


STDP enables spiking neurons to detect hidden causes of their inputs

Neural Information Processing Systems

The principles by which spiking neurons contribute to the astounding computational power of generic cortical microcircuits, and how spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) of synaptic weights could generate and maintain this computational function, are unknown. We show here that STDP, in conjunction with a stochastic soft winner-take-all (WTA) circuit, induces spiking neurons to generate through their synaptic weights implicit internal models for subclasses (or causes") of the high-dimensional spike patterns of hundreds of pre-synaptic neurons. Hence these neurons will fire after learning whenever the current input best matches their internal model. The resulting computational function of soft WTA circuits, a common network motif of cortical microcircuits, could therefore be a drastic dimensionality reduction of information streams, together with the autonomous creation of internal models for the probability distributions of their input patterns. We show that the autonomous generation and maintenance of this computational function can be explained on the basis of rigorous mathematical principles. In particular, we show that STDP is able to approximate a stochastic online Expectation-Maximization (EM) algorithm for modeling the input data. A corresponding result is shown for Hebbian learning in artificial neural networks."


Functional network reorganization in motor cortex can be explained by reward-modulated Hebbian learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

The control of neuroprosthetic devices from the activity of motor cortex neurons benefits from learning effects where the function of these neurons is adapted to the control task. It was recently shown that tuning properties of neurons in monkey motor cortex are adapted selectively in order to compensate for an erroneous interpretation of their activity. In particular, it was shown that the tuning curves of those neurons whose preferred directions had been misinterpreted changed more than those of other neurons. In this article, we show that the experimentally observed self-tuning properties of the system can be explained on the basis of a simple learning rule. This learning rule utilizes neuronal noise for exploration and performs Hebbian weight updates that are modulated by a global reward signal.


Replacing supervised classification learning by Slow Feature Analysis in spiking neural networks

Neural Information Processing Systems

Many models for computations in recurrent networks of neurons assume that the network state moves from some initial state to some fixed point attractor or limit cycle that represents the output of the computation. However experimental data show that in response to a sensory stimulus the network state moves from its initial state through a trajectory of network states and eventually returns to the initial state, without reaching an attractor or limit cycle in between. This type of network response, where salient information about external stimuli is encoded in characteristic trajectories of continuously varying network states, raises the question how a neural system could compute with such code, and arrive for example at a temporally stable classification of the external stimulus. We show that a known unsupervised learning algorithm, Slow Feature Analysis (SFA), could be an important ingredient for extracting stable information from these network trajectories. In fact, if sensory stimuli are more often followed by another stimulus from the same class than by a stimulus from another class, SFA approaches the classification capability of Fishers Linear Discriminant (FLD), a powerful algorithm for supervised learning.


Smoothed Analysis of Discrete Tensor Decomposition and Assemblies of Neurons

Neural Information Processing Systems

We analyze linear independence of rank one tensors produced by tensor powers of randomly perturbed vectors. This enables efficient decomposition of sums of high-order tensors. Our analysis builds upon [BCMV14] but allows for a wider range of perturbation models, including discrete ones. We give an application to recovering assemblies of neurons. Assemblies are large sets of neurons representing specific memories or concepts.


Long short-term memory and Learning-to-learn in networks of spiking neurons

Neural Information Processing Systems

Recurrent networks of spiking neurons (RSNNs) underlie the astounding computing and learning capabilities of the brain. But computing and learning capabilities of RSNN models have remained poor, at least in comparison with ANNs. We address two possible reasons for that. One is that RSNNs in the brain are not randomly connected or designed according to simple rules, and they do not start learning as a tabula rasa network. Rather, RSNNs in the brain were optimized for their tasks through evolution, development, and prior experience.


Synaptic Sampling: A Bayesian Approach to Neural Network Plasticity and Rewiring

Neural Information Processing Systems

We propose that inherent stochasticity enables synaptic plasticity to carry out probabilistic inference by sampling from a posterior distribution of synaptic parameters. This view provides a viable alternative to existing models that propose convergence of synaptic weights to maximum likelihood parameters. It explains how priors on weight distributions and connection probabilities can be merged optimally with learned experience. In simulations we show that our model for synaptic plasticity allows spiking neural networks to compensate continuously for unforeseen disturbances. Furthermore it provides a normative mathematical framework to better understand the permanent variability and rewiring observed in brain networks.


Recognizing Images with at most one Spike per Neuron

arXiv.org Machine Learning

In order to port the performance of trained artificial neural networks (ANNs) to spiking neural networks (SNNs), which can be implemented in neuromorphic hardware with a drastically reduced energy consumption, an efficient ANN to SNN conversion is needed. Previous conversion schemes focused on the representation of the analog output of a rectified linear (ReLU) gate in the ANN by the firing rate of a spiking neuron. But this is not possible for other commonly used ANN gates, and it reduces the throughput even for ReLU gates. We introduce a new conversion method where a gate in the ANN, which can basically be of any type, is emulated by a small circuit of spiking neurons, with At Most One Spike (AMOS) per neuron. We show that this AMOS conversion improves the accuracy of SNNs for ImageNet from 74.60% to 80.97%, thereby bringing it within reach of the best available ANN accuracy (85.0%). The Top5 accuracy of SNNs is raised to 95.82%, getting even closer to the best Top5 performance of 97.2% for ANNs. In addition, AMOS conversion improves latency and throughput of spike-based image classification by several orders of magnitude. Hence these results suggest that SNNs provide a viable direction for developing highly energy efficient hardware for AI that combines high performance with versatility of applications.