It Has Potential: Gradient-Driven Denoisers for Convergent Solutions to Inverse Problems

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Regev Cohen, Yochai Blau, Daniel Freedman, Ehud Rivlin


In recent years there has been increasing interest in leveraging denoisers for solving general inverse problems. Two leading frameworks are regularization-by-denoising (RED) and plug-and-play priors (PnP) which incorporate explicit likelihood functions with priors induced by denoising algorithms. RED and PnP have shown state-of-the-art performance in diverse imaging tasks when powerful denoisersare used, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs). However, the study of their convergence remains an active line of research. Recent works derive the convergence of RED and PnP methods by treating CNN denoisers as approximations for maximum a posteriori (MAP) or minimum mean square error (MMSE) estimators. Yet, state-of-the-art denoisers cannot be interpreted as either MAPor MMSE estimators, since they typically do not exhibit symmetric Jacobians. Furthermore, obtaining stable inverse algorithms often requires controlling the Lipschitz constant of CNN denoisers during training. Precisely enforcing this constraint is impractical, hence, convergence cannot be completely guaranteed. In this work, we introduce image denoisers derived as the gradients of smooth scalar-valued deep neural networks, acting as potentials. This ensures two things: (1) the proposed denoisers display symmetric Jacobians, allowing for MAP and MMSE estimators interpretation; (2) the denoisers may be integrated into RED and PnP schemes with backtracking step size, removing the need for enforcing their Lipschitz constant. To show the latter, we develop a simple inversion method that utilizes the proposed denoisers. We theoretically establish its convergence to stationary points of an underlying objective function consisting of the learned potentials. We numerically validate our method through various imaging experiments, showing improved results compared to standard RED and PnP methods, and with additional provable stability.