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Workshop: From Cells to Societies: Collective Learning Across Scales

Continual Learning with Deep Artificial Neurons

Blake Camp · Jaya Krishna Mandivarapu · Rolando Estrada

Keywords: [ continual learning ] [ incremental learning ] [ online learning ] [ meta-learning ]


Neurons in real brains are complex computational units, capable of input-specific damping, inter-trial memory, and context-dependent signal processing. Artificial neurons, on the other hand, are usually implemented as simple weighted sums. Here we explore if increasing the computational power of individual neurons can yield more powerful neural networks. Specifically, we introduce Deep Artificial Neurons (DANs)—small neural networks with shared, learnable parameters embedded within a larger network. DANs act as filters between nodes in the net-work; namely, they receive vectorized inputs from multiple neurons in the previous layer, condense these signals into a single output, then send this processed signal to the neurons in the subsequent layer. We demonstrate that it is possible to meta-learn shared parameters for the various DANS in the network in order to facilitate continual and transfer learning during deployment. Specifically, we present experimental results on (1) incremental non-linear regression tasks and (2)unsupervised class-incremental image reconstruction that show that DANs allow a single network to update its synapses (i.e., regular weights) over time with minimal forgetting. Notably, our approach uses standard backpropagation, does not require experience replay, and does need separate wake/sleep phases.

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