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Hebbian Learning and the LMS Algorithm

September 26, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

- $5

Hebb’s learning rule can be summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together.” Wire together means that the weight of the synaptic connection between any two neurons is increased when both are firing. Hebb’s rule is a form of unsupervised learning. Hebb introduced the concept of synaptic plasticity and his rule is widely accepted in the field of neurobiology. When imagining a neural network trained with this rule a question naturally arises. What is learned with “fire together wire together” and what purpose could this rule actually have? Not having a good answer has long kept Hebbian learning from engineering applications. The issue is taken up here and possible answers will be forthcoming. Strictly following Hebb’s rule weights could only increase never decrease. This would eventually cause all weights to saturate yielding a useless network. When extending Hebb’s rule to make it workable it was discovered that extended Hebbian learning could be implemented by means of the LMS algorithm. The result was the Hebbian-LMS algorithm. The LMS (least mean square) algorithm was discovered by Widrow and Hoff in 1959 ten years after Hebb’s classic book first appeared. The LMS algorithm optimizes with gradient descent. It is the most widely used learning algorithm today. It has been applied in telecommunications systems control systems signal processing adaptive noise cancelling adaptive antenna arrays etc. It is at the foundation of the backpropagation algorithm of Paul Werbos. Hebb’s rule notwithstanding the nature of the learning algorithm(s) that adapt and control the strength of synaptic connections in animal brains is for the most part unknown. The biochemistry of synaptic plasticity is largely understood but the overall control algorithm is not understood. A solution to this mystery might be the Hebbian-LMS algorithm a control process for unsupervised training of neural networks that perform clustering. Considering the structure of neurons synapses and neurotransmitters the electrical and chemical signals necessary for the implementation of the Hebbian-LMS algorithm seem to be all there. Hebbian-LMS seems to be a natural algorithm. It is proving to be a simple useful algorithm that is easy to make work. Neuron to neuron connections are as simple as can be. All this raises a question. Could a brain or major portion of a brain be implemented with basic building blocks that perform clustering? Is clustering nature’s fundamental neurological building block? On the engineering side layered neural networks trained with Hebbian-LMS have been simulated. Hidden layers are trained unsupervised with Hebbian-LMS while the output layer is trained with classic LMS supervised. The hidden layers perform clustering. The output layer is fed clustered inputs and from this makes the final classification decisions. Networks that are not layered for example randomly connected can be implemented with Hebbian-LMS neurons to provide inputs to an output classifier. The same training algorithm could be utilized. The Hebbian-LMS network is a general purpose trainable classifier and gives performance comparable to a layered network trained with the backpropagation algorithm. The Hebbian-LMS network is much simpler to implement and easier to make work. It is early to predict but it seems highly likely that Hebbian-LMS will have many engineering applications to clustering pattern classification signal processing control systems and to machine learning.Speaker: Prof. Bernard Widrow Department of Electrical Engineering Stanford University


September 26, 2017
6:30 pm