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Transformers have established themselves as the leading neural network model in natural language processing and are increasingly foundational in various domains. In vision, the MLP-Mixer model has demonstrated competitive performance, suggesting that attention mechanisms might not be indispensable. Inspired by this, recent research has explored replacing attention modules with other mechanisms, including those described by MetaFormers. However, the theoretical framework for these models remains underdeveloped. This paper proposes a novel perspective by integrating Krotov's hierarchical associative memory with MetaFormers, enabling a comprehensive representation of the entire Transformer block, encompassing token-/channel-mixing modules, layer normalization, and skip connections, as a single Hopfield network. This approach yields a parallelized MLP-Mixer derived from a three-layer Hopfield network, which naturally incorporates symmetric token-/channel-mixing modules and layer normalization. Empirical studies reveal that symmetric interaction matrices in the model hinder performance in image recognition tasks. Introducing symmetry-breaking effects transitions the performance of the symmetric parallelized MLP-Mixer to that of the vanilla MLP-Mixer. This indicates that during standard training, weight matrices of the vanilla MLP-Mixer spontaneously acquire a symmetry-breaking configuration, enhancing their effectiveness. These findings offer insights into the intrinsic properties of Transformers and MLP-Mixers and their theoretical underpinnings, providing a robust framework for future model design and optimization.

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The self-attention mechanism prevails in modern machine learning. It has an interesting functionality of adaptively selecting tokens from an input sequence by modulating the degree of attention localization, which many researchers speculate is the basis of the powerful model performance but complicates the underlying mechanism of the learning dynamics. In recent years, mainly two arguments have connected attention localization to the model performances. One is the rank collapse, where the embedded tokens by a self-attention block become very similar across different tokens, leading to a less expressive network. The other is the entropy collapse, where the attention probability approaches non-uniform and entails low entropy, making the learning dynamics more likely to be trapped in plateaus. These two failure modes may apparently contradict each other because the rank and entropy collapses are relevant to uniform and non-uniform attention, respectively. To this end, we characterize the notion of attention localization by the eigenspectrum of query-key parameter matrices and reveal that a small eigenspectrum variance leads attention to be localized. Interestingly, the small eigenspectrum variance prevents both rank and entropy collapse, leading to better model expressivity and trainability.

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Second-order optimization has been developed to accelerate the training of deep neural networks and it is being applied to increasingly larger-scale models. In this study, towards training on further larger scales, we identify a specific parameterization for second-order optimization that promotes feature learning in a stable manner even if the network width increases significantly. Inspired by a maximal update parameterization, we consider a one-step update of the gradient and reveal the appropriate scales of hyperparameters including random initialization, learning rates, and damping terms. Our approach covers two major second-order optimization algorithms, K-FAC and Shampoo, and we demonstrate that our parameterization achieves higher generalization performance in feature learning. In particular, it enables us to transfer the hyperparameters across models with different widths.

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Multi-layer perceptron (MLP) is a fundamental component of deep learning that has been extensively employed for various problems. However, recent empirical successes in MLP-based architectures, particularly the progress of the MLP-Mixer, have revealed that there is still hidden potential in improving MLPs to achieve better performance. In this study, we reveal that the MLP-Mixer works effectively as a wide MLP with certain sparse weights. Initially, we clarify that the mixing layer of the Mixer has an effective expression as a wider MLP whose weights are sparse and represented by the Kronecker product. This expression naturally defines a permuted-Kronecker (PK) family, which can be regarded as a general class of mixing layers and is also regarded as an approximation of Monarch matrices. Subsequently, because the PK family effectively constitutes a wide MLP with sparse weights, one can apply the hypothesis proposed by Golubeva, Neyshabur and Gur-Ari (2021) that the prediction performance improves as the width (sparsity) increases when the number of weights is fixed. We empirically verify this hypothesis by maximizing the effective width of the MLP-Mixer, which enables us to determine the appropriate size of the mixing layers quantitatively.

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Hopfield networks and Boltzmann machines (BMs) are fundamental energy-based neural network models. Recent studies on modern Hopfield networks have broaden the class of energy functions and led to a unified perspective on general Hopfield networks including an attention module. In this letter, we consider the BM counterparts of modern Hopfield networks using the associated energy functions, and study their salient properties from a trainability perspective. In particular, the energy function corresponding to the attention module naturally introduces a novel BM, which we refer to as attentional BM (AttnBM). We verify that AttnBM has a tractable likelihood function and gradient for a special case and is easy to train. Moreover, we reveal the hidden connections between AttnBM and some single-layer models, namely the Gaussian--Bernoulli restricted BM and denoising autoencoder with softmax units. We also investigate BMs introduced by other energy functions, and in particular, observe that the energy function of dense associative memory models gives BMs belonging to Exponential Family Harmoniums.

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Gradient regularization (GR) is a method that penalizes the gradient norm of the training loss during training. Although some studies have reported that GR improves generalization performance in deep learning, little attention has been paid to it from the algorithmic perspective, that is, the algorithms of GR that efficiently improve performance. In this study, we first reveal that a specific finite-difference computation, composed of both gradient ascent and descent steps, reduces the computational cost for GR. In addition, this computation empirically achieves better generalization performance. Next, we theoretically analyze a solvable model, a diagonal linear network, and clarify that GR has a desirable implicit bias in a certain problem. In particular, learning with the finite-difference GR chooses better minima as the ascent step size becomes larger. Finally, we demonstrate that finite-difference GR is closely related to some other algorithms based on iterative ascent and descent steps for exploring flat minima: sharpness-aware minimization and the flooding method. We reveal that flooding performs finite-difference GR in an implicit way. Thus, this work broadens our understanding of GR in both practice and theory.

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A biological neural network in the cortex forms a neural field. Neurons in the field have their own receptive fields, and connection weights between two neurons are random but highly correlated when they are in close proximity in receptive fields. In this paper, we investigate such neural fields in a multilayer architecture to investigate the supervised learning of the fields. We empirically compare the performances of our field model with those of randomly connected deep networks. The behavior of a randomly connected network is investigated on the basis of the key idea of the neural tangent kernel regime, a recent development in the machine learning theory of over-parameterized networks; for most randomly connected neural networks, it is shown that global minima always exist in their small neighborhoods. We numerically show that this claim also holds for our neural fields. In more detail, our model has two structures: i) each neuron in a field has a continuously distributed receptive field, and ii) the initial connection weights are random but not independent, having correlations when the positions of neurons are close in each layer. We show that such a multilayer neural field is more robust than conventional models when input patterns are deformed by noise disturbances. Moreover, its generalization ability can be slightly superior to that of conventional models.

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Sequential training from task to task is becoming one of the major objects in deep learning applications such as continual learning and transfer learning. Nevertheless, it remains unclear under what conditions the trained model's performance improves or deteriorates. To deepen our understanding of sequential training, this study provides a theoretical analysis of generalization performance in a solvable case of continual learning. We consider neural networks in the neural tangent kernel (NTK) regime that continually learn target functions from task to task, and investigate the generalization by using an established statistical mechanical analysis of kernel ridge-less regression. We first show characteristic transitions from positive to negative transfer. More similar targets above a specific critical value can achieve positive knowledge transfer for the subsequent task while catastrophic forgetting occurs even with very similar targets. Next, we investigate a variant of continual learning where the model learns the same target function in multiple tasks. Even for the same target, the trained model shows some transfer and forgetting depending on the sample size of each task. We can guarantee that the generalization error monotonically decreases from task to task for equal sample sizes while unbalanced sample sizes deteriorate the generalization. We respectively refer to these improvement and deterioration as self-knowledge transfer and forgetting, and empirically confirm them in realistic training of deep neural networks as well.

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Data augmentation is widely used for machine learning; however, an effective method to apply data augmentation has not been established even though it includes several factors that should be tuned carefully. One such factor is sample suitability, which involves selecting samples that are suitable for data augmentation. A typical method that applies data augmentation to all training samples disregards sample suitability, which may reduce classifier performance. To address this problem, we propose the self-paced augmentation (SPA) to automatically and dynamically select suitable samples for data augmentation when training a neural network. The proposed method mitigates the deterioration of generalization performance caused by ineffective data augmentation. We discuss two reasons the proposed SPA works relative to curriculum learning and desirable changes to loss function instability. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed SPA can improve the generalization performance, particularly when the number of training samples is small. In addition, the proposed SPA outperforms the state-of-the-art RandAugment method.

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Natural Gradient Descent (NGD) helps to accelerate the convergence of gradient descent dynamics, but it requires approximations in large-scale deep neural networks because of its high computational cost. Empirical studies have confirmed that some NGD methods with approximate Fisher information converge sufficiently fast in practice. Nevertheless, it remains unclear from the theoretical perspective why and under what conditions such heuristic approximations work well. In this work, we reveal that, under specific conditions, NGD with approximate Fisher information achieves the same fast convergence to global minima as exact NGD. We consider deep neural networks in the infinite-width limit, and analyze the asymptotic training dynamics of NGD in function space via the neural tangent kernel. In the function space, the training dynamics with the approximate Fisher information are identical to those with the exact Fisher information, and they converge quickly. The fast convergence holds in layer-wise approximations; for instance, in block diagonal approximation where each block corresponds to a layer as well as in block tri-diagonal and K-FAC approximations. We also find that a unit-wise approximation achieves the same fast convergence under some assumptions. All of these different approximations have an isotropic gradient in the function space, and this plays a fundamental role in achieving the same convergence properties in training. Thus, the current study gives a novel and unified theoretical foundation with which to understand NGD methods in deep learning.

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