An adaptive homeostatic algorithm for the unsupervised learning of visual features

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: The formation of structure in the brain, that is, of the connections between cells within neural populations, is by large an unsupervised learning process: the emergence of this architecture is mostly self-organized. In the primary visual cortex of mammals, for example, one may observe during development the formation of cells selective to localized, oriented features. This leads to the development of a rough representation of contours of the retinal image in area V1. We modeled these mechanisms using sparse Hebbian learning algorithms. These algorithms alternate a coding step to encode the information with a learning step to find the proper encoder. A major difficulty faced by these algorithms is to deduce a good representation while knowing immature encoders, and to learn good encoders with a non-optimal representation. To address this problem, we propose to introduce a new regulation process between learning and coding, called homeostasis. Our homeostasis is compatible with a neuro-mimetic architecture and allows for the fast emergence of localized filters sensitive to orientation. The key to this algorithm lies in a simple adaptation mechanism based on non-linear functions that reconciles the antagonistic processes that occur at the coding and learning time scales. We tested this unsupervised algorithm with this homeostasis rule for a range of existing unsupervised learning algorithms coupled with different neural coding algorithms. In addition, we propose a simplification of this optimal homeostasis rule by implementing a simple heuristic on the probability of activation of neurons. Compared to the optimal homeostasis rule, we show that this heuristic allows to implement a more rapid unsupervised learning algorithm while keeping a large part of its effectiveness. These results demonstrate the potential application of such a strategy in machine learning and we illustrate this with one result in a convolutional neural network.
  • Keywords: Sparse Coding, Unsupervised Learning, Natural Scene Statistics, Biologically Plausible Deep Networks, Visual Perception, Computer Vision
  • TL;DR: Unsupervised learning is hard and depends on normalisation heuristics. Can we find a simpler approach?
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