Spiking Network Initialisation and Firing Rate Collapse



In recent years, newly developed methods to train spiking neural networks (SNNs) have rendered them as a plausible alternative to Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) in terms of accuracy, while at the same time being much more energy efficient at inference and potentially at training time. However, it is still unclear what constitutes a good initialisation for an SNN. We often use initialisation schemes developed for ANN training which are often inadequate and require manual tuning. In this paper, we attempt to tackle this issue by using techniques from the ANN initialisation literature as well as computational neuroscience results. We show that the problem of weight initialisation for ANNs is a more nuanced problem than it is for ANNs due to the spike-and-reset non-linearity of SNNs and the firing rate collapse problem. We firstly identify and propose several solutions to the firing rate collapse problem under different sets of assumptions which successfully solve the issue by leveraging classical random walk and Wiener processes results. Secondly, we devise a general strategy for SNN initialisation which combines variance propagation techniques from ANNs and different methods to obtain the expected firing rate and membrane potential distribution based on diffusion and shot-noise approximations. Altogether, we obtain theoretical results to solve the SNN initialisation which consider the membrane potential distribution in the presence of a threshold. Yet, to what extent can these methods be successfully applied to SNNs on real datasets remains an open question.