Keywords: Spiking Neural Networks, Direct Training, Surrogate Gradient, Generalizability
Abstract: Recently, brain-inspired spiking neuron networks (SNNs) have attracted widespread research interest because of their event-driven and energy-efficient characteristics. It is difficult to efficiently train deep SNNs due to the non-differentiability of its activation function, which disables the typically used gradient descent approaches for traditional artificial neural networks (ANNs). Although the adoption of surrogate gradient (SG) formally allows for the back-propagation of losses, the discrete spiking mechanism actually differentiates the loss landscape of SNNs from that of ANNs, failing the surrogate gradient methods to achieve comparable accuracy as for ANNs. In this paper, we first analyze why the current direct training approach with surrogate gradient results in SNNs with poor generalizability. Then we introduce the temporal efficient training (TET) approach to compensate for the loss of momentum in the gradient descent with SG so that the training process can converge into flatter minima with better generalizability. Meanwhile, we demonstrate that TET improves the temporal scalability of SNN and induces a temporal inheritable training for acceleration. Our method consistently outperforms the SOTA on all reported mainstream datasets, including CIFAR-10/100 and ImageNet. Remarkably on DVS-CIFAR10, we obtained 83% top-1 accuracy, over 10% improvement compared to existing state of the art.
One-sentence Summary: This paper provides a novel temporal efficient training method for SNN, which significantly improves performance by modifying the optimization target.
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