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Correlative Information Maximization: A Biologically Plausible Approach to Supervised Deep Neural Networks without Weight Symmetry

Bariscan Bozkurt · Cengiz Pehlevan · Alper Erdogan

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #423
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Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


The backpropagation algorithm has experienced remarkable success in training large-scale artificial neural networks; however, its biological plausibility has been strongly criticized, and it remains an open question whether the brain employs supervised learning mechanisms akin to it. Here, we propose correlative information maximization between layer activations as an alternative normative approach to describe the signal propagation in biological neural networks in both forward and backward directions. This new framework addresses many concerns about the biological-plausibility of conventional artificial neural networks and the backpropagation algorithm. The coordinate descent-based optimization of the corresponding objective, combined with the mean square error loss function for fitting labeled supervision data, gives rise to a neural network structure that emulates a more biologically realistic network of multi-compartment pyramidal neurons with dendritic processing and lateral inhibitory neurons. Furthermore, our approach provides a natural resolution to the weight symmetry problem between forward and backward signal propagation paths, a significant critique against the plausibility of the conventional backpropagation algorithm. This is achieved by leveraging two alternative, yet equivalent forms of the correlative mutual information objective. These alternatives intrinsically lead to forward and backward prediction networks without weight symmetry issues, providing a compelling solution to this long-standing challenge.

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