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Neural Computation

April 1, 1999, Vol. 11, No. 3, Pages 715-745
(doi: 10.1162/089976699300016638)
© 1999 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Discontinuities in Recurrent Neural Networks
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This article studies the computational power of various discontinuous real computational models that are based on the classical analog recurrent neural network (ARNN). This ARNN consists of finite number of neurons; each neuron computes a polynomial net function and a sigmoid-like continuous activation function. We introduce arithmetic networks as ARNN augmented with a few simple discontinuous (e.g., threshold or zero test) neurons. We argue that even with weights restricted to polynomial time computable reals, arithmetic networks are able to compute arbitrarily complex recursive functions. We identify many types of neural networks that are at least as powerful as arithmetic nets, some of which are not in fact discontinuous, but they boost other arithmetic operations in the net function (e.g., neurons that can use divisions and polynomial net functions inside sigmoid-like continuous activation functions). These arithmetic networks are equivalent to the Blum-Shub-Smale model, when the latter is restricted to a bounded number of registers.

With respect to implementation on digital computers, we show that arithmetic networks with rational weights can be simulated with exponential precision, but even with polynomial-time computable real weights, arithmetic networks are not subject to any fixed precision bounds. This is in contrast with the ARNN that are known to demand precision that is linear in the computation time.

When nontrivial periodic functions (e.g., fractional part, sine, tangent) are added to arithmetic networks, the resulting networks are computationally equivalent to a massively parallel machine. Thus, these highly discontinuous networks can solve the presumably intractable class of PSPACE-complete problems in polynomial time.