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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. An assembly is a large population of neurons whose synchronous firing represents a memory, concept, word, and other cognitive category. Assemblies are believed to provide a bridge between high-level cognitive phenomena and low-level neural activity. Recently, a computational system called the \emph{Assembly Calculus} (AC), with a repertoire of biologically plausible operations on assemblies, has been shown capable of simulating arbitrary space-bounded computation, but also of simulating complex cognitive phenomena such as language, reasoning, and planning. However, the mechanism whereby assemblies can mediate {\em learning} has not been known. Here we present such a mechanism, and prove rigorously that, for simple classification problems defined on distributions of labeled assemblies, a new assembly representing each class can be reliably formed in response to a few stimuli from the class; this assembly is henceforth reliably recalled in response to new stimuli from the same class. Furthermore, such class assemblies will be distinguishable as long as the respective classes are reasonably separated — for example, when they are clusters of similar assemblies, or more generally separable with margin by a linear threshold function. To prove these results, we draw on random graph theory with dynamic edge weights to estimate sequences of activated vertices, yieldingmore »strong generalizations of previous calculations and theorems in this field over the past five years. These theorems are backed up by experiments demonstrating the successful formation of assemblies which represent concept classes on synthetic data drawn from such distributions, and also on MNIST, which lends itself to classification through one assembly per digit. Seen as a learning algorithm, this mechanism is entirely online, generalizes from very few samples, and requires only mild supervision — all key attributes of learning in a model of the brain. We argue that this learning mechanism, supported by separate sensory pre-processing mechanisms for extracting attributes, such as edges or phonemes, from real world data, can be the basis of biological learning in cortex.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 9, 2023
  4. The success of gradient descent in ML and especially for learning neural networks is remarkable and robust. In the context of how the brain learns, one aspect of gradient descent that appears biologically difficult to realize (if not implausible) is that its updates rely on feedback from later layers to earlier layers through the same connections. Such bidirected links are relatively few in brain networks, and even when reciprocal connections exist, they may not be equi-weighted. Random Feedback Alignment (Lillicrap et al., 2016), where the backward weights are random and fixed, has been proposed as a bio-plausible alternative and found to be effective empirically. We investigate how and when feedback alignment (FA) works, focusing on one of the most basic problems with layered structure n×m, the goal is to find a low rank factorization Zn×rWr×m that minimizes the error ∥ZW−Y∥F. Gradient descent solves this problem optimally. We show that FA finds the optimal solution when r≥rank(Y). We also shed light on how FA works. It is observed empirically that the forward weight matrices and (random) feedback matrices come closer during FA updates. Our analysis rigorously derives this phenomenon and shows how it facilitates convergence of FA*, a closely related variantmore »of FA. We also show that FA can be far from optimal when r« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  5. In lifelong learning, tasks (or classes) to be learned arrive sequentially over time in arbitrary order. During training, knowledge from previous tasks can be captured and transferred to subsequent ones to improve sample efficiency. We consider the setting where all target tasks can be represented in the span of a small number of unknown linear or nonlinear features of the input data. We propose a lifelong learning algorithm that maintains and refines the internal feature representation. We prove that for any desired accuracy on all tasks, the dimension of the representation remains close to that of the underlying representation. The resulting sample complexity improves significantly on existing bounds. In the setting of linear features, our algorithm is provably efficient and the sample complexity for input dimension d, m tasks with k features up to error ϵ is O~(dk1.5/ϵ+km/ϵ). We also prove a matching lower bound for any lifelong learning algorithm that uses a single task learner as a black box. We complement our analysis with an empirical study, including a heuristic lifelong learning algorithm for deep neural networks. Our method performs favorably on challenging realistic image datasets compared to state-of-the-art continual learning methods.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  7. Can linear systems be solved faster than matrix multiplication? While there has been remarkable progress for the special cases of graph structured linear systems, in the general setting, the bit complexity of solving an $n \times n$ linear system $Ax=b$ is $\tilde{O}(n^\omega)$, where $\omega < 2.372864$ is the matrix multiplication exponent. Improving on this has been an open problem even for sparse linear systems with poly$(n)$ condition number. In this paper, we present an algorithm that solves linear systems in sparse matrices asymptotically faster than matrix multiplication for any $\omega > 2$. This speedup holds for any input matrix $A$ with $o(n^{\omega -1}/\log(\kappa(A)))$ non-zeros, where $\kappa(A)$ is the condition number of $A$. For poly$(n)$-conditioned matrices with $\tilde{O}(n)$ nonzeros, and the current value of $\omega$, the bit complexity of our algorithm to solve to within any $1/\text{poly}(n)$ error is $O(n^{2.331645})$. Our algorithm can be viewed as an efficient, randomized implementation of the block Krylov method via recursive low displacement rank factorizations. It is inspired by the algorithm of [Eberly et al. ISSAC `06 `07] for inverting matrices over finite fields. In our analysis of numerical stability, we develop matrix anti-concentration techniques to bound the smallest eigenvalue and the smallest gap inmore »eigenvalues of semi-random matrices.« less
  8. Buchin, Kevin ; Colin de Verdi\` (Ed.)
    The Gibbs Sampler is a general method for sampling high-dimensional distributions, dating back to 1971. In each step of the Gibbs Sampler, we pick a random coordinate and re-sample that coordinate from the distribution induced by fixing all the other coordinates. While it has become widely used over the past half-century, guarantees of efficient convergence have been elusive. We show that for a convex body K in ℝⁿ with diameter D, the mixing time of the Coordinate Hit-and-Run (CHAR) algorithm on K is polynomial in n and D. We also give a lower bound on the mixing rate of CHAR, showing that it is strictly worse than hit-and-run and the ball walk in the worst case.
  9. We consider the communication complexity of a number of distributed optimization problems. We start with the problem of solving a linear system. Suppose there is a coordinator together with s servers P1, …, Ps, the i-th of which holds a subset A(i) x = b(i) of ni constraints of a linear system in d variables, and the coordinator would like to output an x ϵ ℝd for which A(i) x = b(i) for i = 1, …, s. We assume each coefficient of each constraint is specified using L bits. We first resolve the randomized and deterministic communication complexity in the point-to-point model of communication, showing it is (d2 L + sd) and (sd2L), respectively. We obtain similar results for the blackboard communication model. As a result of independent interest, we show the probability a random matrix with integer entries in {–2L, …, 2L} is invertible is 1–2−Θ(dL), whereas previously only 1 – 2−Θ(d) was known. When there is no solution to the linear system, a natural alternative is to find the solution minimizing the ℓp loss, which is the ℓp regression problem. While this problem has been studied, we give improved upper or lower bounds for every value ofmore »p ≥ 1. One takeaway message is that sampling and sketching techniques, which are commonly used in earlier work on distributed optimization, are neither optimal in the dependence on d nor on the dependence on the approximation ε, thus motivating new techniques from optimization to solve these problems. Towards this end, we consider the communication complexity of optimization tasks which generalize linear systems, such as linear, semi-definite, and convex programming. For linear programming, we first resolve the communication complexity when d is constant, showing it is (sL) in the point-to-point model. For general d and in the point-to-point model, we show an Õ(sd3L) upper bound and an (d2 L + sd) lower bound. In fact, we show if one perturbs the coefficients randomly by numbers as small as 2−Θ(L), then the upper bound is Õ(sd2L) + poly(dL), and so this bound holds for almost all linear programs. Our study motivates understanding the bit complexity of linear programming, which is related to the running time in the unit cost RAM model with words of O(log(nd)) bits, and we give the fastest known algorithms for linear programming in this model. Read More: https://epubs.siam.org/doi/10.1137/1.9781611975994.106« less
  10. Our expanding understanding of the brain at the level of neurons and synapses, and the level of cognitive phenomena such as language, leaves a formidable gap between these two scales. Here we introduce a computational system which promises to bridge this gap: the Assembly Calculus. It encompasses operations on assemblies of neurons, such as project, associate, and merge, which appear to be implicated in cognitive phenomena, and can be shown, analytically as well as through simulations, to be plausibly realizable at the level of neurons and synapses. We demonstrate the reach of this system by proposing a brain architecture for syntactic processing in the production of language, compatible with recent experimental results.