Convolutional neural networks with extra-classical receptive fields

Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have had great success in many real-world applications and have also been used to model visual processing in the brain. However, these networks are quite brittle - small changes in the input image can dramatically change a network's output prediction. In contrast to what is known from biology, these networks largely rely on feedforward connections, ignoring the influence of recurrent connections. They also focus on supervised rather than unsupervised learning. To address these issues, we combine traditional supervised learning via backpropagation with a specialized unsupervised learning rule to learn lateral connections between neurons within a convolutional neural network. These connections have been shown to optimally integrate information from the surround, generating extra-classical receptive fields for the neurons in our new proposed model (CNNEx). Models with optimal lateral connections are more robust to noise and achieve better performance on noisy versions of the MNIST and CIFAR-10 datasets. Resistance to noise can be further improved by combining our model with additional regularization techniques such as dropout and weight decay. Although the image statistics of MNIST and CIFAR-10 differ greatly, the same unsupervised learning rule generalized to both datasets. Our results demonstrate the potential usefulness of combining supervised and unsupervised learning techniques and suggest that the integration of lateral connections into convolutional neural networks is an important area of future research.

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