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Mehdi Azabou, Vinam Arora, Venkataramana Ganesh, Ximeng Mao, Santosh Nachimuthu, Michael J. Mendelson, Blake Richards, Matthew G. Perich, Guillaume Lajoie, Eva L. Dyer

Our ability to use deep learning approaches to decipher neural activity would likely benefit from greater scale, in terms of both model size and datasets. However, the integration of many neural recordings into one unified model is challenging, as each recording contains the activity of different neurons from different individual animals. In this paper, we introduce a training framework and architecture designed to model the population dynamics of neural activity across diverse, large-scale neural recordings. Our method first tokenizes individual spikes within the dataset to build an efficient representation of neural events that captures the fine temporal structure of neural activity. We then employ cross-attention and a PerceiverIO backbone to further construct a latent tokenization of neural population activities. Utilizing this architecture and training framework, we construct a large-scale multi-session model trained on large datasets from seven nonhuman primates, spanning over 158 different sessions of recording from over 27,373 neural units and over 100 hours of recordings. In a number of different tasks, we demonstrate that our pretrained model can be rapidly adapted to new, unseen sessions with unspecified neuron correspondence, enabling few-shot performance with minimal labels. This work presents a powerful new approach for building deep learning tools to analyze neural data and stakes out a clear path to training at scale.

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Yuhan Helena Liu, Aristide Baratin, Jonathan Cornford, Stefan Mihalas, Eric Shea-Brown, Guillaume Lajoie

In theoretical neuroscience, recent work leverages deep learning tools to explore how some network attributes critically influence its learning dynamics. Notably, initial weight distributions with small (resp. large) variance may yield a rich (resp. lazy) regime, where significant (resp. minor) changes to network states and representation are observed over the course of learning. However, in biology, neural circuit connectivity generally has a low-rank structure and therefore differs markedly from the random initializations generally used for these studies. As such, here we investigate how the structure of the initial weights, in particular their effective rank, influences the network learning regime. Through both empirical and theoretical analyses, we discover that high-rank initializations typically yield smaller network changes indicative of lazier learning, a finding we also confirm with experimentally-driven initial connectivity in recurrent neural networks. Conversely, low-rank initialization biases learning towards richer learning. Importantly, however, as an exception to this rule, we find lazier learning can still occur with a low-rank initialization that aligns with task and data statistics. Our research highlights the pivotal role of initial weight structures in shaping learning regimes, with implications for metabolic costs of plasticity and risks of catastrophic forgetting.

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Edward J. Hu, Moksh Jain, Eric Elmoznino, Younesse Kaddar, Guillaume Lajoie, Yoshua Bengio, Nikolay Malkin

Autoregressive large language models (LLMs) compress knowledge from their training data through next-token conditional distributions. This limits tractable querying of this knowledge to start-to-end autoregressive sampling. However, many tasks of interest -- including sequence continuation, infilling, and other forms of constrained generation -- involve sampling from intractable posterior distributions. We address this limitation by using amortized Bayesian inference to sample from these intractable posteriors. Such amortization is algorithmically achieved by fine-tuning LLMs via diversity-seeking reinforcement learning algorithms: generative flow networks (GFlowNets). We empirically demonstrate that this distribution-matching paradigm of LLM fine-tuning can serve as an effective alternative to maximum-likelihood training and reward-maximizing policy optimization. As an important application, we interpret chain-of-thought reasoning as a latent variable modeling problem and demonstrate that our approach enables data-efficient adaptation of LLMs to tasks that require multi-step rationalization and tool use.

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Tianhong Li, Sangnie Bhardwaj, Yonglong Tian, Han Zhang, Jarred Barber, Dina Katabi, Guillaume Lajoie, Huiwen Chang, Dilip Krishnan

Current vision-language generative models rely on expansive corpora of paired image-text data to attain optimal performance and generalization capabilities. However, automatically collecting such data (e.g. via large-scale web scraping) leads to low quality and poor image-text correlation, while human annotation is more accurate but requires significant manual effort and expense. We introduce $\textbf{ITIT}$ ($\textbf{I}$n$\textbf{T}$egrating $\textbf{I}$mage $\textbf{T}$ext): an innovative training paradigm grounded in the concept of cycle consistency which allows vision-language training on unpaired image and text data. ITIT is comprised of a joint image-text encoder with disjoint image and text decoders that enable bidirectional image-to-text and text-to-image generation in a single framework. During training, ITIT leverages a small set of paired image-text data to ensure its output matches the input reasonably well in both directions. Simultaneously, the model is also trained on much larger datasets containing only images or texts. This is achieved by enforcing cycle consistency between the original unpaired samples and the cycle-generated counterparts. For instance, it generates a caption for a given input image and then uses the caption to create an output image, and enforces similarity between the input and output images. Our experiments show that ITIT with unpaired datasets exhibits similar scaling behavior as using high-quality paired data. We demonstrate image generation and captioning performance on par with state-of-the-art text-to-image and image-to-text models with orders of magnitude fewer (only 3M) paired image-text data.

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Jean-Pierre Falet, Hae Beom Lee, Nikolay Malkin, Chen Sun, Dragos Secrieru, Dinghuai Zhang, Guillaume Lajoie, Yoshua Bengio

We present a new algorithm for amortized inference in sparse probabilistic graphical models (PGMs), which we call $\Delta$-amortized inference ($\Delta$-AI). Our approach is based on the observation that when the sampling of variables in a PGM is seen as a sequence of actions taken by an agent, sparsity of the PGM enables local credit assignment in the agent's policy learning objective. This yields a local constraint that can be turned into a local loss in the style of generative flow networks (GFlowNets) that enables off-policy training but avoids the need to instantiate all the random variables for each parameter update, thus speeding up training considerably. The $\Delta$-AI objective matches the conditional distribution of a variable given its Markov blanket in a tractable learned sampler, which has the structure of a Bayesian network, with the same conditional distribution under the target PGM. As such, the trained sampler recovers marginals and conditional distributions of interest and enables inference of partial subsets of variables. We illustrate $\Delta$-AI's effectiveness for sampling from synthetic PGMs and training latent variable models with sparse factor structure.

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Andrew Nam, Eric Elmoznino, Nikolay Malkin, Chen Sun, Yoshua Bengio, Guillaume Lajoie

Compositionality is an important feature of discrete symbolic systems, such as language and programs, as it enables them to have infinite capacity despite a finite symbol set. It serves as a useful abstraction for reasoning in both cognitive science and in AI, yet the interface between continuous and symbolic processing is often imposed by fiat at the algorithmic level, such as by means of quantization or a softmax sampling step. In this work, we explore how discretization could be implemented in a more neurally plausible manner through the modeling of attractor dynamics that partition the continuous representation space into basins that correspond to sequences of symbols. Building on established work in attractor networks and introducing novel training methods, we show that imposing structure in the symbolic space can produce compositionality in the attractor-supported representation space of rich sensory inputs. Lastly, we argue that our model exhibits the process of an information bottleneck that is thought to play a role in conscious experience, decomposing the rich information of a sensory input into stable components encoding symbolic information.

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Roman Pogodin, Jonathan Cornford, Arna Ghosh, Gauthier Gidel, Guillaume Lajoie, Blake Richards

Most learning algorithms in machine learning rely on gradient descent to adjust model parameters, and a growing literature in computational neuroscience leverages these ideas to study synaptic plasticity in the brain. However, the vast majority of this work ignores a critical underlying assumption: the choice of distance for synaptic changes (i.e. the geometry of synaptic plasticity). Gradient descent assumes that the distance is Euclidean, but many other distances are possible, and there is no reason that biology necessarily uses Euclidean geometry. Here, using the theoretical tools provided by mirror descent, we show that, regardless of the loss being minimized, the distribution of synaptic weights will depend on the geometry of synaptic plasticity. We use these results to show that experimentally-observed log-normal weight distributions found in several brain areas are not consistent with standard gradient descent (i.e. a Euclidean geometry), but rather with non-Euclidean distances. Finally, we show that it should be possible to experimentally test for different synaptic geometries by comparing synaptic weight distributions before and after learning. Overall, this work shows that the current paradigm in theoretical work on synaptic plasticity that assumes Euclidean synaptic geometry may be misguided and that it should be possible to experimentally determine the true geometry of synaptic plasticity in the brain.

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Xu Ji, Eric Elmoznino, George Deane, Axel Constant, Guillaume Dumas, Guillaume Lajoie, Jonathan Simon, Yoshua Bengio

Conscious states (states that there is something it is like to be in) seem both rich or full of detail, and ineffable or hard to fully describe or recall. The problem of ineffability, in particular, is a longstanding issue in philosophy that partly motivates the explanatory gap: the belief that consciousness cannot be reduced to underlying physical processes. Here, we provide an information theoretic dynamical systems perspective on the richness and ineffability of consciousness. In our framework, the richness of conscious experience corresponds to the amount of information in a conscious state and ineffability corresponds to the amount of information lost at different stages of processing. We describe how attractor dynamics in working memory would induce impoverished recollections of our original experiences, how the discrete symbolic nature of language is insufficient for describing the rich and high-dimensional structure of experiences, and how similarity in the cognitive function of two individuals relates to improved communicability of their experiences to each other. While our model may not settle all questions relating to the explanatory gap, it makes progress toward a fully physicalist explanation of the richness and ineffability of conscious experience: two important aspects that seem to be part of what makes qualitative character so puzzling.

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Ezekiel Williams, Colin Bredenberg, Guillaume Lajoie

Many learning algorithms used as normative models in neuroscience or as candidate approaches for learning on neuromorphic chips learn by contrasting one set of network states with another. These Contrastive Learning (CL) algorithms are traditionally implemented with rigid, temporally non-local, and periodic learning dynamics that could limit the range of physical systems capable of harnessing CL. In this study, we build on recent work exploring how CL might be implemented by biological or neurmorphic systems and show that this form of learning can be made temporally local, and can still function even if many of the dynamical requirements of standard training procedures are relaxed. Thanks to a set of general theorems corroborated by numerical experiments across several CL models, our results provide theoretical foundations for the study and development of CL methods for biological and neuromorphic neural networks.

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Sangnie Bhardwaj, Willie McClinton, Tongzhou Wang, Guillaume Lajoie, Chen Sun, Phillip Isola, Dilip Krishnan

Pre-trained deep image representations are useful for post-training tasks such as classification through transfer learning, image retrieval, and object detection. Data augmentations are a crucial aspect of pre-training robust representations in both supervised and self-supervised settings. Data augmentations explicitly or implicitly promote invariance in the embedding space to the input image transformations. This invariance reduces generalization to those downstream tasks which rely on sensitivity to these particular data augmentations. In this paper, we propose a method of learning representations that are instead equivariant to data augmentations. We achieve this equivariance through the use of steerable representations. Our representations can be manipulated directly in embedding space via learned linear maps. We demonstrate that our resulting steerable and equivariant representations lead to better performance on transfer learning and robustness: e.g. we improve linear probe top-1 accuracy by between 1% to 3% for transfer; and ImageNet-C accuracy by upto 3.4%. We further show that the steerability of our representations provides significant speedup (nearly 50x) for test-time augmentations; by applying a large number of augmentations for out-of-distribution detection, we significantly improve OOD AUC on the ImageNet-C dataset over an invariant representation.

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