Learning Delays in Spiking Neural Networks using Dilated Convolutions with Learnable Spacings

30 Jun 2023  ·  Ilyass Hammouamri, Ismail Khalfaoui-Hassani, Timothée Masquelier ·

Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) are a promising research direction for building power-efficient information processing systems, especially for temporal tasks such as speech recognition. In SNNs, delays refer to the time needed for one spike to travel from one neuron to another. These delays matter because they influence the spike arrival times, and it is well-known that spiking neurons respond more strongly to coincident input spikes. More formally, it has been shown theoretically that plastic delays greatly increase the expressivity in SNNs. Yet, efficient algorithms to learn these delays have been lacking. Here, we propose a new discrete-time algorithm that addresses this issue in deep feedforward SNNs using backpropagation, in an offline manner. To simulate delays between consecutive layers, we use 1D convolutions across time. The kernels contain only a few non-zero weights - one per synapse - whose positions correspond to the delays. These positions are learned together with the weights using the recently proposed Dilated Convolution with Learnable Spacings (DCLS). We evaluated our method on three datasets: the Spiking Heidelberg Dataset (SHD), the Spiking Speech Commands (SSC) and its non-spiking version Google Speech Commands v0.02 (GSC) benchmarks, which require detecting temporal patterns. We used feedforward SNNs with two or three hidden fully connected layers, and vanilla leaky integrate-and-fire neurons. We showed that fixed random delays help and that learning them helps even more. Furthermore, our method outperformed the state-of-the-art in the three datasets without using recurrent connections and with substantially fewer parameters. Our work demonstrates the potential of delay learning in developing accurate and precise models for temporal data processing. Our code is based on PyTorch / SpikingJelly and available at: https://github.com/Thvnvtos/SNN-delays

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Results from the Paper

Task Dataset Model Metric Name Metric Value Global Rank Result Benchmark
Audio Classification SHD SNN with Dilated Convolution with Learnable Spacings Percentage correct 95.1 # 2
Audio Classification SSC SNN with Dilated Convolution with Learnable Spacings Accuracy 80.69 # 2