Piecewise Strong Convexity of Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Tristan Milne


We study the loss surface of a feed-forward neural network with ReLU non-linearities, regularized with weight decay. We show that the regularized loss function is piecewise strongly convex on an important open set which contains, under some conditions, all of its global minimizers. This is used to prove that local minima of the regularized loss function in this set are isolated, and that every differentiable critical point in this set is a local minimum, partially addressing an open problem given at the Conference on Learning Theory (COLT) 2015; our result is also applied to linear neural networks to show that with weight decay regularization, there are no non-zero critical points in a norm ball obtaining training error below a given threshold. We also include an experimental section where we validate our theoretical work and show that the regularized loss function is almost always piecewise strongly convex when restricted to stochastic gradient descent trajectories for three standard image classification problems.