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A framework for training Spiking Neural Networks using Evolutionary Algorithms and Deep Reinforcement Learning

posted on 12.03.2021, 16:21 by Anirudh Shankar
In this work two novel frameworks, one using evolutionary algorithms and another using Reinforcement Learning for training Spiking Neural Networks are proposed and analyzed. A novel multi-agent evolutionary robotics (ER) based framework, inspired by competitive evolutionary environments in nature, is demonstrated for training Spiking Neural Networks (SNN). The weights of a population of SNNs along with morphological parameters of bots they control in the ER environment are treated as phenotypes. Rules of the framework select certain bots and their SNNs for reproduction and others for elimination based on their efficacy in capturing food in a competitive environment. While the bots and their SNNs are given no explicit reward to survive or reproduce via any loss function, these drives emerge implicitly as they evolve to hunt food and survive within these rules. Their efficiency in capturing food as a function of generations exhibit the evolutionary signature of punctuated equilibria. Two evolutionary inheritance algorithms on the phenotypes, Mutation and Crossover with Mutation along with their variants, are demonstrated. Performances of these algorithms are compared using ensembles of 100 experiments for each algorithm. We find that one of the Crossover with Mutation variants promotes 40% faster learning in the SNN than mere Mutation with a statistically significant margin. Along with an evolutionary approach to training SNNs, we also describe a novel Reinforcement Learning(RL) based framework using the Proximal Policy Optimization to train a SNN for an image classification task. The experiments and results of the framework are then discussed highlighting future direction of the work.


Degree Type

Master of Science


Industrial Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Vaneet Aggarwal

Additional Committee Member 2

Souvik Das

Additional Committee Member 3

Mario Ventresca