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Abstract:We study the convergence of gradient flow for the training of deep neural networks. If Residual Neural Networks are a popular example of very deep architectures, their training constitutes a challenging optimization problem due notably to the non-convexity and the non-coercivity of the objective. Yet, in applications, those tasks are successfully solved by simple optimization algorithms such as gradient descent. To better understand this phenomenon, we focus here on a ``mean-field'' model of infinitely deep and arbitrarily wide ResNet, parameterized by probability measures over the product set of layers and parameters and with constant marginal on the set of layers. Indeed, in the case of shallow neural networks, mean field models have proven to benefit from simplified loss-landscapes and good theoretical guarantees when trained with gradient flow for the Wasserstein metric on the set of probability measures. Motivated by this approach, we propose to train our model with gradient flow w.r.t. the conditional Optimal Transport distance: a restriction of the classical Wasserstein distance which enforces our marginal condition. Relying on the theory of gradient flows in metric spaces we first show the well-posedness of the gradient flow equation and its consistency with the training of ResNets at finite width. Performing a local Polyak-\L{}ojasiewicz analysis, we then show convergence of the gradient flow for well-chosen initializations: if the number of features is finite but sufficiently large and the risk is sufficiently small at initialization, the gradient flow converges towards a global minimizer. This is the first result of this type for infinitely deep and arbitrarily wide ResNets.