Learning from brains how to regularize machines

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

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Zhe Li, Wieland Brendel, Edgar Walker, Erick Cobos, Taliah Muhammad, Jacob Reimer, Matthias Bethge, Fabian Sinz, Zachary Pitkow, Andreas Tolias


<p>Despite impressive performance on numerous visual tasks, Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) --- unlike brains --- are often highly sensitive to small perturbations of their input, e.g. adversarial noise leading to erroneous decisions. We propose to regularize CNNs using large-scale neuroscience data to learn more robust neural features in terms of representational similarity. We presented natural images to mice and measured the responses of thousands of neurons from cortical visual areas. Next, we denoised the notoriously variable neural activity using strong predictive models trained on this large corpus of responses from the mouse visual system, and calculated the representational similarity for millions of pairs of images from the model's predictions. We then used the neural representation similarity to regularize CNNs trained on image classification by penalizing intermediate representations that deviated from neural ones. This preserved performance of baseline models when classifying images under standard benchmarks, while maintaining substantially higher performance compared to baseline or control models when classifying noisy images. Moreover, the models regularized with cortical representations also improved model robustness in terms of adversarial attacks. This demonstrates that regularizing with neural data can be an effective tool to create an inductive bias towards more robust inference.</p>