A Dynamical Central Limit Theorem for Shallow Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Zhengdao Chen, Grant Rotskoff, Joan Bruna, Eric Vanden-Eijnden


Recent theoretical work has characterized the dynamics and convergence properties for wide shallow neural networks trained via gradient descent; the asymptotic regime in which the number of parameters tends towards infinity has been dubbed the "mean-field" limit. At initialization, the randomly sampled parameters lead to a deviation from the mean-field limit that is dictated by the classical central limit theorem (CLT). However, the dynamics of training introduces correlations among the parameters raising the question of how the fluctuations evolve during training. Here, we analyze the mean-field dynamics as a Wasserstein gradient flow and prove that the deviations from the mean-field evolution scaled by the width, in the width-asymptotic limit, remain bounded throughout training. This observation has implications for both the approximation rate and the generalization: the upper bound we obtain is controlled by a Monte-Carlo type resampling error, which importantly does not depend on dimension. We also relate the bound on the fluctuations to the total variation norm of the measure to which the dynamics converges, which in turn controls the generalization error.