Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)
Wenrui Zhang, Peng Li
Spiking neural networks (SNNs) well support spatiotemporal learning and energy-efficient event-driven hardware neuromorphic processors. As an important class of SNNs, recurrent spiking neural networks (RSNNs) possess great computational power. However, the practical application of RSNNs is severely limited by challenges in training. Biologically-inspired unsupervised learning has limited capability in boosting the performance of RSNNs. On the other hand, existing backpropagation (BP) methods suffer from high complexity of unrolling in time, vanishing and exploding gradients, and approximate differentiation of discontinuous spiking activities when applied to RSNNs. To enable supervised training of RSNNs under a well-defined loss function, we present a novel Spike-Train level RSNNs Backpropagation (ST-RSBP) algorithm for training deep RSNNs. The proposed ST-RSBP directly computes the gradient of a rated-coded loss function defined at the output layer of the network w.r.t tunable parameters. The scalability of ST-RSBP is achieved by the proposed spike-train level computation during which temporal effects of the SNN is captured in both the forward and backward pass of BP. Our ST-RSBP algorithm can be broadly applied to RSNNs with a single recurrent layer or deep RSNNs with multiple feed-forward and recurrent layers. Based upon challenging speech and image datasets including TI46, N-TIDIGITS, Fashion-MNIST and MNIST, ST-RSBP is able to train RSNNs with an accuracy surpassing that of the current state-of-art SNN BP algorithms and conventional non-spiking deep learning models.