Controlled Forgetting: Targeted Stimulation and Dopaminergic Plasticity Modulation for Unsupervised Lifelong Learning in Spiking Neural Networks

Jason M. Allred, Kaushik Roy

Stochastic gradient descent requires that training samples be drawn from a uniformly random distribution of the data. For a deployed system that must learn online from an uncontrolled and unknown environment, the ordering of input samples often fails to meet this criterion, making lifelong learning a difficult challenge. We exploit the locality of the unsupervised Spike Timing Dependent Plasticity (STDP) learning rule to target local representations in a Spiking Neural Network (SNN) to adapt to novel information while protecting essential information in the remainder of the SNN from catastrophic forgetting. In our Controlled Forgetting Networks (CFNs), novel information triggers stimulated firing and heterogeneously modulated plasticity, inspired by biological dopamine signals, to cause rapid and isolated adaptation in the synapses of neurons associated with outlier information. This targeting controls the forgetting process in a way that reduces the degradation of accuracy for older tasks while learning new tasks. Our experimental results on the MNIST dataset validate the capability of CFNs to learn successfully over time from an unknown, changing environment, achieving 95.36% accuracy, which we believe is the best unsupervised accuracy ever achieved by a fixed-size, single-layer SNN on a completely disjoint MNIST dataset.

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