Neuron Merging: Compensating for Pruned Neurons

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Woojeong Kim, Suhyun Kim, Mincheol Park, Geunseok Jeon


Network pruning is widely used to lighten and accelerate neural network models. Structured network pruning discards the whole neuron or filter, leading to accuracy loss. In this work, we propose a novel concept of neuron merging applicable to both fully connected layers and convolution layers, which compensates for the information loss due to the pruned neurons/filters. Neuron merging starts with decomposing the original weights into two matrices/tensors. One of them becomes the new weights for the current layer, and the other is what we name a scaling matrix, guiding the combination of neurons. If the activation function is ReLU, the scaling matrix can be absorbed into the next layer under certain conditions, compensating for the removed neurons. We also propose a data-free and inexpensive method to decompose the weights by utilizing the cosine similarity between neurons. Compared to the pruned model with the same topology, our merged model better preserves the output feature map of the original model; thus, it maintains the accuracy after pruning without fine-tuning. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach over network pruning for various model architectures and datasets. As an example, for VGG-16 on CIFAR-10, we achieve an accuracy of 93.16% while reducing 64% of total parameters, without any fine-tuning. The code can be found here: