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On the Effect of Initialization: The Scaling Path of 2-Layer Neural Networks

Sebastian Neumayer, Lénaïc Chizat, Michael Unser; 25(15):1−24, 2024.


In supervised learning, the regularization path is sometimes used as a convenient theoretical proxy for the optimization path of gradient descent initialized from zero. In this paper, we study a modification of the regularization path for infinite-width 2-layer ReLU neural networks with nonzero initial distribution of the weights at different scales. By exploiting a link with unbalanced optimal-transport theory, we show that, despite the non-convexity of the 2-layer network training, this problem admits an infinite-dimensional convex counterpart. We formulate the corresponding functional-optimization problem and investigate its main properties. In particular, we show that, as the scale of the initialization ranges between $0$ and $+\infty$, the associated path interpolates continuously between the so-called kernel and rich regimes. Numerical experiments confirm that, in our setting, the scaling path and the final states of the optimization path behave similarly, even beyond these extreme points.

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