Google Research

Spiking autoencoders with temporal coding

Frontiers in Neuroscience (2021)


Spiking neural networks with temporal coding schemes process information based on the relative timing of neuronal spikes. In supervised learning tasks, temporal coding allows learning through backpropagation with exact derivatives, and achieves accuracies on par with conventional artificial neural networks. Here we introduce spiking autoencoders with temporal coding and pulses, trained using backpropagation to store and reconstruct images with high fidelity from compact representations. We explore the effect of different spike time target latencies, data noise levels and embedding sizes, as well as classification performance from the embeddings. The spiking autoencoder performs similarly to conventional autoencoders and exceeds their reconstruction performance on inverted-brightness images. We find that inhibition is essential in the functioning of the spiking autoencoders, particularly when the input needs to be memorised for a longer time before the expected output spike times. To reconstruct images with a high target latency, the network learns to accumulate negative evidence and to use the pulses as excitatory triggers for producing the output spikes at the required times. Our results highlight the potential of spiking autoencoders as building blocks for more complex biologically-inspired architectures.

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