Sparse Training via Boosting Pruning Plasticity with Neuroregeneration


Works on lottery ticket hypothesis (LTH) and single-shot network pruning (SNIP) have raised a lot of attention currently on post-training pruning (iterative magnitude pruning), and before-training pruning (pruning at initialization). The former method suffers from an extremely large computation cost and the latter category of methods usually struggles with insufficient performance. In comparison, during-training pruning, a class of pruning methods that simultaneously enjoys the training/inference efficiency and the comparable performance, temporarily, has been less explored. To better understand during-training pruning, we quantitatively study the effect of pruning throughout training from the perspective of pruning plasticity (the ability of the pruned networks to recover the original performance). Pruning plasticity can help explain several other empirical observations about neural network pruning in literature. We further find that pruning plasticity can be substantially improved by injecting a brain-inspired mechanism called neuroregeneration, i.e., to regenerate the same number of connections as pruned. We design a novel gradual magnitude pruning (GMP) method, named gradual pruning with zero-cost neurodegeneration (GraNet), and its dynamic sparse training (DST) variant GraNet-ST. Both of them advance state of the art. Perhaps most impressively, the latter for the first time boosts the sparse-to-sparse training performance over various dense-to-sparse methods by a large margin with ResNet-50 on ImageNet. We will release all codes.

In Proceedings of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 2021