I created an ANN in Python 3. My backpropagation algorithm seems to work up to a point where the gradient becomes very small. I am familiar with the vanishing gradient problem, but I found that it only applies to really deep network; my simple test network is no such network. It consists of an input layer (1 input node and bias), no hidden layers, and an output layer (1 output node). How do I stop the gradient from vanishing? Here is the code:

import numpy as np
from random import random

class Neural_Network(object):
    def __init__(self):
        # Create a simple deterministic network for testing

        # Define Hyperparameters
        self.inputLayerSize = 1
        self.outputLayerSize = 1
        self.hiddenLayerSize = 0
        self.numHiddenLayer = 0
        self.numExamples = 20
        self.learningRate = 0.07 # LEARNING RATE
        self.weightDecay = 0
        # in -> out
        self.weights = [] # stores matrices of each layer of weights
        self.z = [] # stores matrices of each layer of weighted sums
        self.a = [] # stores matrices of each layer of activity 
        self.biases = [] # stores all biases
        self.biasNodes = []

        # Biases are matrices that are added to activity matrix
        # Dimensions -> numExamples_*hiddenLayerSize or numExamples_*outputLayerSize

        # Biases for output layer
        b = [0.5 for x in range(self.outputLayerSize)]
        B = [b for x in range(self.numExamples)];

        # Bias nodes
        b= [1 for x in range(self.numExamples)]
        for i in range(self.numHiddenLayer+1):

        # Weights (Parameters)
        # Weight matrix between input and output layer
        W = np.matrix("0.5");

    def setBatchSize(self, numExamples):
        # Changes the number of rows (examples) for biases
        if (self.numExamples > numExamples):
            self.biases = [b[:numExamples] for b in self.biases]

    def hypTan(self, z):
        # Apply hyperbolic tangent function
        return (np.exp(z) - np.exp(-z)) / (np.exp(z) + np.exp(-z))

    def hypTanPrime(self, z):
        # Apply derivative hyperbolic tangent function
        return 4/np.multiply((np.exp(z) + np.exp(-z)), (np.exp(z) + np.exp(-z)))

    def forward(self, X):
        # Propagate outputs through network
        self.z = []
        self.a = []

        self.z.append(np.dot(X, self.weights[0]) + self.biases[0])

        yHat = self.a[-1]
        return yHat

    def backProp(self, X, y):
        # Compute derivative wrt W
        # out -> in
        dJdWb = [] # stores matrices of each dJdWb value 
        dJdW = [] # stores matrices of each dJdW (equal in size to self.weights[])
        delta = [] # stores matrices of each backpropagating error
        result = () # stores dJdW and dJdWb
        self.yHat = self.forward(X)

        # Quantifying Error

        delta.insert(0,np.multiply(-(y-self.yHat), self.hypTanPrime(self.z[-1]))) # delta = (y-yHat)(sigmoidPrime(final layer unactivated))
        dJdW.insert(0, np.dot(X.T, delta[0]) + (self.weightDecay*self.weights[-1]))
        dJdWb.insert(0, np.dot(self.biasNodes[-1].T, delta[0]) + (self.weightDecay*self.biases[-1])) # you need to backpropagate to bias nodes

        result = (dJdW, dJdWb)
        return result

    def train(self, X, y):
        for t in range(10000):
            dJ = self.backProp(X, y)
            dJdW = dJ[0]
            dJdWb = dJ[1]
            for i in range(len(dJdW)):
                print("dJdW:", dJdW[i], sep = " ", end = "\n")
                print("dJdWb:", dJdWb[i], sep = " ", end = "\n\n")
                #print("Weights:", self.weights[i]);
                self.weights[i] -= self.learningRate*dJdW[i]
                self.biases[i] -= self.learningRate*dJdWb[i]

# Instantiating Neural Network

# Instantiating Neural Network

NN = Neural_Network() # create a deterministic NN for testing
x = np.matrix("0.025; 0.05; 0.075; 0.1; 0.125; 0.15; 0.175; 0.2; 0.225; 0.25; 0.275; 0.3; 0.325; 0.35; 0.375; 0.4; 0.425; 0.45; 0.475; 0.5")
y = np.matrix("0.05; 0.1; 0.15; 0.2; 0.25; 0.3; 0.35; 0.4; 0.45; 0.5; 0.55; 0.6; 0.65; 0.7; 0.75; 0.8; 0.85; 0.9; 0.95; 1.0")

# Training
print("INPUT: ", end = '\n')
print(x, end = '\n\n')

print("BEFORE TRAINING", NN.forward(x), sep = '\n', end = '\n\n')
print("ERROR: ")
print("\nAFTER TRAINING", NN.forward(x), sep = '\n', end = '\n\n')

NN.setBatchSize(1) # changing settings to receive one input at a time

while True:
    inputs = input()
    x = np.mat([float(i) for i in inputs.split(" ")])

When you run the program it will show the dJdW value (gradient values w.r.t weights) and dJWb values (gradient values w.r.t bias weights). Then it will test the inputs on the newly trained network and print the outputs. After that, you can give the network your own inputs (between 0 and 0.5 since i trained the network to multiply inputs by 2) and it will return outputs in console. Please note that this is a highly simplified version of my real network. I want to fix the problem here before adressing it in the full version.


1 Answer 1


This is not a "vanishing gradient" problem, it is just your network converging as designed.

It is normal for gradients to become low as you approach convergence. In a really simple problem, like your linear regression, it is relatively easy to get a gradient of zero (within combined rounding errors). That is because, near a stationary point, gradients do approach zero. This can also be a weakness of gradient descent in general - learning will slow or halt near any stationary point, hence concerns about finding local minima as opposed to global minima.

The way to check your gradients are correct is to test them against small weight deltas. Pick a set of weight parameters for the network. Calculate the gradients using your code. Then to test, take each weight in turn, change it by +/- $\epsilon$ and use both variants to generate cost values, use them to estimate the gradient for that weight $\frac{J_{+\epsilon} - J_{-\epsilon}}{2\epsilon}$. Use this alternative (and much slower) gradient calculation to build up a second opinion of what dJdW should be. Then compare the two values. This process is often called gradient checking.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.