Discovering the mechanics of hidden neurons

Simon Carbonnelle, Christophe De Vleeschouwer

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Feb 15, 2018) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Neural networks trained through stochastic gradient descent (SGD) have been around for more than 30 years, but they still escape our understanding. This paper takes an experimental approach, with a divide-and-conquer strategy in mind: we start by studying what happens in single neurons. While being the core building block of deep neural networks, the way they encode information about the inputs and how such encodings emerge is still unknown. We report experiments providing strong evidence that hidden neurons behave like binary classifiers during training and testing. During training, analysis of the gradients reveals that a neuron separates two categories of inputs, which are impressively constant across training. During testing, we show that the fuzzy, binary partition described above embeds the core information used by the network for its prediction. These observations bring to light some of the core internal mechanics of deep neural networks, and have the potential to guide the next theoretical and practical developments.
  • TL;DR: We report experiments providing strong evidence that a neuron behaves like a binary classifier during training and testing
  • Keywords: deep learning, experimental analysis, hidden neurons