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Workshop: Mathematics of Modern Machine Learning (M3L)

How does Gradient Descent Learn Features --- A Local Analysis for Regularized Two-Layer Neural Networks

Mo Zhou · Rong Ge


The ability of learning useful features is one of the major advantages of neural networks. Although recent works show that neural network can operate in a neural tangent kernel (NTK) regime that does not allow feature learning, many works also demonstrate the potential for neural networks to go beyond NTK regime and perform feature learning. Recently, a line of work highlighted the feature learning capabilities of the early stages of gradient-based training. In this paper we consider another mechanism for feature learning via gradient descent through a local convergence analysis. We show that once the loss is below a certain threshold, gradient descent with a carefully regularized objective will capture ground-truth directions. Our results demonstrate that feature learning not only happens at the initial gradient steps, but can also occur towards the end of training.

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