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Orals & Spotlights Track 35: Neuroscience/Probabilistic

Leila Wehbe · Francisco Ruiz


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Thu 10 Dec. 18:00 - 18:15 PST

Point process models for sequence detection in high-dimensional neural spike trains

Alex Williams · Anthony Degleris · Yixin Wang · Scott Linderman

Sparse sequences of neural spikes are posited to underlie aspects of working memory, motor production, and learning. Discovering these sequences in an unsupervised manner is a longstanding problem in statistical neuroscience. Promising recent work utilized a convolutive nonnegative matrix factorization model to tackle this challenge. However, this model requires spike times to be discretized, utilizes a sub-optimal least-squares criterion, and does not provide uncertainty estimates for model predictions or estimated parameters. We address each of these shortcomings by developing a point process model that characterizes fine-scale sequences at the level of individual spikes and represents sequence occurrences as a small number of marked events in continuous time. This ultra-sparse representation of sequence events opens new possibilities for spike train modeling. For example, we introduce learnable time warping parameters to model sequences of varying duration, which have been experimentally observed in neural circuits. We demonstrate these advantages on recordings from songbird higher vocal center and rodent hippocampus.

Thu 10 Dec. 18:15 - 18:30 PST

Reconstructing Perceptive Images from Brain Activity by Shape-Semantic GAN

Tao Fang · Yu Qi · Gang Pan

Reconstructing seeing images from fMRI recordings is an absorbing research area in neuroscience and provides a potential brain-reading technology. The challenge lies in that visual encoding in brain is highly complex and not fully revealed. Inspired by the theory that visual features are hierarchically represented in cortex, we propose to break the complex visual signals into multi-level components and decode each component separately. Specifically, we decode shape and semantic representations from the lower and higher visual cortex respectively, and merge the shape and semantic information to images by a generative adversarial network (Shape-Semantic GAN). This 'divide and conquer' strategy captures visual information more accurately. Experiments demonstrate that Shape-Semantic GAN improves the reconstruction similarity and image quality, and achieves the state-of-the-art image reconstruction performance.

Thu 10 Dec. 18:30 - 18:45 PST

A mathematical theory of cooperative communication

Pei Wang · Junqi Wang · Pushpi Paranamana · Patrick Shafto

Cooperative communication plays a central role in theories of human cognition, language, development, culture, and human-robot interaction. Prior models of cooperative communication are algorithmic in nature and do not shed light on why cooperation may yield effective belief transmission and what limitations may arise due to differences between beliefs of agents. Through a connection to the theory of optimal transport, we establishing a mathematical framework for cooperative communication. We derive prior models as special cases, statistical interpretations of belief transfer plans, and proofs of robustness and instability. Computational simulations support and elaborate our theoretical results, and demonstrate fit to human behavior. The results show that cooperative communication provably enables effective, robust belief transmission which is required to explain feats of human learning and improve human-machine interaction.

Thu 10 Dec. 18:45 - 19:00 PST


Thu 10 Dec. 19:00 - 19:10 PST

Learning Some Popular Gaussian Graphical Models without Condition Number Bounds

Jonathan Kelner · Frederic Koehler · Raghu Meka · Ankur Moitra

Gaussian Graphical Models (GGMs) have wide-ranging applications in machine learning and the natural and social sciences. In most of the settings in which they are applied, the number of observed samples is much smaller than the dimension and they are assumed to be sparse. While there are a variety of algorithms (e.g. Graphical Lasso, CLIME) that provably recover the graph structure with a logarithmic number of samples, to do so they require various assumptions on the well-conditioning of the precision matrix that are not information-theoretically necessary.

Here we give the first fixed polynomial-time algorithms for learning attractive GGMs and walk-summable GGMs with a logarithmic number of samples without any such assumptions. In particular, our algorithms can tolerate strong dependencies among the variables. Our result for structure recovery in walk-summable GGMs is derived from a more general result for efficient sparse linear regression in walk-summable models without any norm dependencies. We complement our results with experiments showing that many existing algorithms fail even in some simple settings where there are long dependency chains. Our algorithms do not.

Thu 10 Dec. 19:10 - 19:20 PST

Sinkhorn Natural Gradient for Generative Models

Zebang Shen · Zhenfu Wang · Alejandro Ribeiro · Hamed Hassani

We consider the problem of minimizing a functional over a parametric family of probability measures, where the parameterization is characterized via a push-forward structure. 
An important application of this problem is in training generative adversarial networks.  
In this regard, we propose a novel Sinkhorn Natural Gradient (SiNG) algorithm which acts as a steepest descent method on the probability space endowed with the Sinkhorn divergence.
We show that the Sinkhorn information matrix (SIM), a key component of SiNG, has an explicit expression and can be evaluated accurately in complexity that scales logarithmically with respect to the desired accuracy. This is in sharp contrast to  existing natural gradient methods that can only be carried out approximately.
Moreover, in practical applications when only Monte-Carlo type integration is available, we design an empirical estimator for SIM and provide the stability analysis.
In our experiments, we quantitatively compare SiNG with state-of-the-art SGD-type solvers on generative tasks to demonstrate its efficiency and efficacy of our method.

Thu 10 Dec. 19:20 - 19:30 PST

NVAE: A Deep Hierarchical Variational Autoencoder

Arash Vahdat · Jan Kautz

Normalizing flows, autoregressive models, variational autoencoders (VAEs), and deep energy-based models are among competing likelihood-based frameworks for deep generative learning. Among them, VAEs have the advantage of fast and tractable sampling and easy-to-access encoding networks. However, they are currently outperformed by other models such as normalizing flows and autoregressive models. While the majority of the research in VAEs is focused on the statistical challenges, we explore the orthogonal direction of carefully designing neural architectures for hierarchical VAEs. We propose Nouveau VAE (NVAE), a deep hierarchical VAE built for image generation using depth-wise separable convolutions and batch normalization. NVAE is equipped with a residual parameterization of Normal distributions and its training is stabilized by spectral regularization. We show that NVAE achieves state-of-the-art results among non-autoregressive likelihood-based models on the MNIST, CIFAR-10, CelebA 64, and CelebA HQ datasets and it provides a strong baseline on FFHQ. For example, on CIFAR-10, NVAE pushes the state-of-the-art from 2.98 to 2.91 bits per dimension, and it produces high-quality images on CelebA HQ. To the best of our knowledge, NVAE is the first successful VAE applied to natural images as large as 256x256 pixels. The source code is publicly available.

Thu 10 Dec. 19:30 - 19:40 PST

Reciprocal Adversarial Learning via Characteristic Functions

Shengxi Li · Zeyang Yu · Min Xiang · Danilo Mandic

Generative adversarial nets (GANs) have become a preferred tool for tasks involving complicated distributions. To stabilise the training and reduce the mode collapse of GANs, one of their main variants employs the integral probability metric (IPM) as the loss function. This provides extensive IPM-GANs with theoretical support for basically comparing moments in an embedded domain of the \textit{critic}. We generalise this by comparing the distributions rather than their moments via a powerful tool, i.e., the characteristic function (CF), which uniquely and universally comprising all the information about a distribution. For rigour, we first establish the physical meaning of the phase and amplitude in CF, and show that this provides a feasible way of balancing the accuracy and diversity of generation. We then develop an efficient sampling strategy to calculate the CFs. Within this framework, we further prove an equivalence between the embedded and data domains when a reciprocal exists, where we naturally develop the GAN in an auto-encoder structure, in a way of comparing everything in the embedded space (a semantically meaningful manifold). This efficient structure uses only two modules, together with a simple training strategy, to achieve bi-directionally generating clear images, which is referred to as the reciprocal CF GAN (RCF-GAN). Experimental results demonstrate the superior performances of the proposed RCF-GAN in terms of both generation and reconstruction.

Thu 10 Dec. 19:40 - 19:50 PST

Joint Q&A for Preceeding Spotlights

Thu 10 Dec. 19:50 - 20:00 PST

Incorporating Interpretable Output Constraints in Bayesian Neural Networks

Wanqian Yang · Lars Lorch · Moritz Graule · Himabindu Lakkaraju · Finale Doshi-Velez

Domains where supervised models are deployed often come with task-specific constraints, such as prior expert knowledge on the ground-truth function, or desiderata like safety and fairness. We introduce a novel probabilistic framework for reasoning with such constraints and formulate a prior that enables us to effectively incorporate them into Bayesian neural networks (BNNs), including a variant that can be amortized over tasks. The resulting Output-Constrained BNN (OC-BNN) is fully consistent with the Bayesian framework for uncertainty quantification and is amenable to black-box inference. Unlike typical BNN inference in uninterpretable parameter space, OC-BNNs widen the range of functional knowledge that can be incorporated, especially for model users without expertise in machine learning. We demonstrate the efficacy of OC-BNNs on real-world datasets, spanning multiple domains such as healthcare, criminal justice, and credit scoring.

Thu 10 Dec. 20:00 - 20:10 PST

Baxter Permutation Process

Masahiro Nakano · Akisato Kimura · Takeshi Yamada · Naonori Ueda

In this paper, a Bayesian nonparametric (BNP) model for Baxter permutations (BPs), termed BP process (BPP) is proposed and applied to relational data analysis. The BPs are a well-studied class of permutations, and it has been demonstrated that there is one-to-one correspondence between BPs and several interesting objects including floorplan partitioning (FP), which constitutes a subset of rectangular partitioning (RP). Accordingly, the BPP can be used as an FP model. We combine the BPP with a multi-dimensional extension of the stick-breaking process called the {\it block-breaking process} to fill the gap between FP and RP, and obtain a stochastic process on arbitrary RPs. Compared with conventional BNP models for arbitrary RPs, the proposed model is simpler and has a high affinity with Bayesian inference.

Thu 10 Dec. 20:10 - 20:20 PST

Flexible mean field variational inference using mixtures of non-overlapping exponential families

Jeffrey Spence

Sparse models are desirable for many applications across diverse domains as they can perform automatic variable selection, aid interpretability, and provide regularization. When fitting sparse models in a Bayesian framework, however, analytically obtaining a posterior distribution over the parameters of interest is intractable for all but the simplest cases. As a result practitioners must rely on either sampling algorithms such as Markov chain Monte Carlo or variational methods to obtain an approximate posterior. Mean field variational inference is a particularly simple and popular framework that is often amenable to analytically deriving closed-form parameter updates. When all distributions in the model are members of exponential families and are conditionally conjugate, optimization schemes can often be derived by hand. Yet, I show that using standard mean field variational inference can fail to produce sensible results for models with sparsity-inducing priors, such as the spike-and-slab. Fortunately, such pathological behavior can be remedied as I show that mixtures of exponential family distributions with non-overlapping support form an exponential family. In particular, any mixture of an exponential family of diffuse distributions and a point mass at zero to model sparsity forms an exponential family. Furthermore, specific choices of these distributions maintain conditional conjugacy. I use two applications to motivate these results: one from statistical genetics that has connections to generalized least squares with a spike-and-slab prior on the regression coefficients; and sparse probabilistic principal component analysis. The theoretical results presented here are broadly applicable beyond these two examples.

Thu 10 Dec. 20:20 - 20:30 PST

Joint Q&A for Preceeding Spotlights

Thu 10 Dec. 20:30 - 21:00 PST