Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


The Combinatorial Brain Surgeon: Pruning Weights That Cancel One Another in Neural Networks

Xin Yu · Thiago Serra · Srikumar Ramalingam · Shandian Zhe

Hall E #718

Keywords: [ DL: Algorithms ] [ OPT: Discrete and Combinatorial Optimization ]


Neural networks tend to achieve better accuracy with training if they are larger — even if the resulting models are overparameterized. Nevertheless, carefully removing such excess of parameters before, during, or after training may also produce models with similar or even improved accuracy. In many cases, that can be curiously achieved by heuristics as simple as removing a percentage of the weights with the smallest absolute value — even though absolute value is not a perfect proxy for weight relevance. With the premise that obtaining significantly better performance from pruning depends on accounting for the combined effect of removing multiple weights, we revisit one of the classic approaches for impact-based pruning: the Optimal Brain Surgeon (OBS). We propose a tractable heuristic for solving the combinatorial extension of OBS, in which we select weights for simultaneous removal, and we combine it with a single-pass systematic update of unpruned weights. Our selection method outperforms other methods for high sparsity, and the single-pass weight update is also advantageous if applied after those methods.

Chat is not available.