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Seminar by Konstantinos Spiliopoulos (Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, Boston U)

Title: Mean field analysis of neural networks: typical behavior and fluctuations

Abstract: Machine learning, and in particular neural network models, have revolutionized fields such as image, text, and speech recognition. Today, many important real-world applications in these areas are driven by neural networks. There are also growing applications in finance, engineering, robotics, and medicine. Despite their immense success in practice, there is limited mathematical understanding of neural networks. Our work shows how neural networks can be studied via stochastic analysis, and develops approaches for addressing some of the technical challenges which arise. We analyze one-layer neural networks in the asymptotic regime of simultaneously (A) large network sizes and (B) large numbers of stochastic gradient descent training iterations. We rigorously prove that the empirical distribution of the neural network parameters converges to the solution of a nonlinear partial differential equation. In addition, a consequence of our analysis is that the trained parameters of the neural network asymptotically become independent, a property which is commonly called "propagation of chaos". Lastly, we rigorously prove a central limit theorem, which describes the neural network's fluctuations around its mean-field limit. The fluctuations have a Gaussian distribution and satisfy a stochastic partial differential equation. We demonstrate the theoretical results in the study of the evolution of parameters in the well known MNIST data set.