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Trainability, Expressivity and Interpretability in Gated Neural ODEs

Tim Kim · Tankut Can · Kamesh Krishnamurthy

Exhibit Hall 1 #420


Understanding how the dynamics in biological and artificial neural networks implement the computations required for a task is a salient open question in machine learning and neuroscience. In particular, computations requiring complex memory storage and retrieval pose a significant challenge for these networks to implement or learn. Recently, a family of models described by neural ordinary differential equations (nODEs) has emerged as powerful dynamical neural network models capable of capturing complex dynamics. Here, we extend nODEs by endowing them with adaptive timescales using gating interactions. We refer to these as gated neural ODEs (gnODEs). Using a task that requires memory of continuous quantities, we demonstrate the inductive bias of the gnODEs to learn (approximate) continuous attractors. We further show how reduced-dimensional gnODEs retain their modeling power while greatly improving interpretability, even allowing explicit visualization of the structure of learned attractors. We introduce a novel measure of expressivity which probes the capacity of a neural network to generate complex trajectories. Using this measure, we explore how the phase-space dimension of the nODEs and the complexity of the function modeling the flow field contribute to expressivity. We see that a more complex function for modeling the flow field allows a lower-dimensional nODE to capture a given target dynamics. Finally, we demonstrate the benefit of gating in nODEs on several real-world tasks.

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