A Waddington landscape for prototype learning in generalized Hopfield networks

Nacer Eddine Boukacem, Allen Leary, Robin Thériault, Felix Gottlieb, Madhav Mani, Paul François
Condensed Matter, Disordered Systems and Neural Networks, Disordered Systems and Neural Networks (cond-mat.dis-nn), Machine Learning (cs.LG), Neural and Evolutionary Computing (cs.NE), Quantitative Methods (q-bio.QM)
2023-12-04 00:00:00
Networks in machine learning offer examples of complex high-dimensional dynamical systems reminiscent of biological systems. Here, we study the learning dynamics of Generalized Hopfield networks, which permit a visualization of internal memories. These networks have been shown to proceed through a 'feature-to-prototype' transition, as the strength of network nonlinearity is increased, wherein the learned, or terminal, states of internal memories transition from mixed to pure states. Focusing on the prototype learning dynamics of the internal memories we observe a strong resemblance to the canalized, or low-dimensional, dynamics of cells as they differentiate within a Waddingtonian landscape. Dynamically, we demonstrate that learning in a Generalized Hopfield Network proceeds through sequential 'splits' in memory space. Furthermore, order of splitting is interpretable and reproducible. The dynamics between the splits are canalized in the Waddington sense -- robust to variations in detailed aspects of the system. In attempting to make the analogy a rigorous equivalence, we study smaller subsystems that exhibit similar properties to the full system. We combine analytical calculations with numerical simulations to study the dynamical emergence of the feature-to-prototype transition, and the behaviour of splits in the landscape, saddles points, visited during learning. We exhibit regimes where saddles appear and disappear through saddle-node bifurcations, qualitatively changing the distribution of learned memories as the strength of the nonlinearity is varied -- allowing us to systematically investigate the mechanisms that underlie the emergence of Waddingtonian dynamics. Memories can thus differentiate in a predictive and controlled way, revealing new bridges between experimental biology, dynamical systems theory, and machine learning.
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