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Normalization effects on shallow neural networks and related asymptotic expansions

  • * Corresponding author: Jiahui Yu

    * Corresponding author: Jiahui Yu 
K.S. was partially supported by the National Science Foundation (DMS 1550918) and Simons Foundation Award 672441
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  • We consider shallow (single hidden layer) neural networks and characterize their performance when trained with stochastic gradient descent as the number of hidden units $ N $ and gradient descent steps grow to infinity. In particular, we investigate the effect of different scaling schemes, which lead to different normalizations of the neural network, on the network's statistical output, closing the gap between the $ 1/\sqrt{N} $ and the mean-field $ 1/N $ normalization. We develop an asymptotic expansion for the neural network's statistical output pointwise with respect to the scaling parameter as the number of hidden units grows to infinity. Based on this expansion, we demonstrate mathematically that to leading order in $ N $, there is no bias-variance trade off, in that both bias and variance (both explicitly characterized) decrease as the number of hidden units increases and time grows. In addition, we show that to leading order in $ N $, the variance of the neural network's statistical output decays as the implied normalization by the scaling parameter approaches the mean field normalization. Numerical studies on the MNIST and CIFAR10 datasets show that test and train accuracy monotonically improve as the neural network's normalization gets closer to the mean field normalization.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 60F05, 68T01, 60G99.


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  • Figure 1.  Performance of scaled neural networks on MNIST test dataset (cross entropy loss)

    Figure 2.  Performance of scaled neural networks on MNIST test dataset (MSE loss)

    Figure 3.  Performance of scaled convolutional neural networks on CIFAR10 test dataset (cross entropy loss)

    Figure 4.  Performance of scaled neural networks on MNIST training dataset (MSE loss)

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