We present a learning algorithm for neural networks, called Alopex. Instead of error gradient, Alopex uses local correlations between changes in individual weights and changes in the global error measure. The algorithm does not make any assumptions about transfer functions of individual neurons, and does not explicitly depend on the functional form of the error measure. Hence, it can be used in networks with arbitrary transfer functions and for minimizing a large class of error measures. The learning algorithm is the same for feedforward and recurrent networks. All the weights in a network are updated simultaneously, using only local computations. This allows complete parallelization of the algorithm. The algorithm is stochastic and it uses a “temperature” parameter in a manner similar to that in simulated annealing. A heuristic “annealing schedule” is presented that is effective in finding global minima of error surfaces. In this paper, we report extensive simulation studies illustrating these advantages and show that learning times are comparable to those for standard gradient descent methods. Feedforward networks trained with Alopex are used to solve the MONK's problems and symmetry problems. Recurrent networks trained with the same algorithm are used for solving temporal XOR problems. Scaling properties of the algorithm are demonstrated using encoder problems of different sizes and advantages of appropriate error measures are illustrated using a variety of problems.

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