Evolving Modular Architectures for Neural Networks

Andrea Di Ferdinando, Raffaele Calabretta, & Domenico Parisi


Abstract. Neural networks that learn the What and Where task perform better if they possess a modular architecture for separately processing the identity and spatial location of objects. In previous simulations the modular architecture either was hardwired or it developed during an individual's life based on a preference for short connections given a set of hardwired unit locations. We present two sets of simulations in which the network architecture is genetically inherited and it evolves in a population of neural networks in two different conditions: (1) both the architecture and the connection weights evolve; (2) the network architecture is inherited and it evolves but the connection weights are learned during life. The best results are obtained in condition (2). Condition (1) gives unsatisfactory results because (a) adapted sets of weights can suddenly become maladaptive if the architecture changes, (b) evolution fails to properly assign computational resources (hidden units) to the two tasks, (c) genetic linkage between sets of weights for different modules can result in a favourable mutation in one set of weights being accompanied by an unfavourable mutation in another set of weights.