Hebbian dreaming for small datasets

Elena Agliari, Francesco Alemanno, Miriam Aquaro, Adriano Barra, Fabrizio Durante, Ido Kanter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dreaming Hopfield model constitutes a generalization of the Hebbian paradigm for neural networks, that is able to perform on-line learning when “awake” and also to account for off-line “sleeping” mechanisms. The latter have been shown to enhance storing in such a way that, in the long sleep-time limit, this model can reach the maximal storage capacity achievable by networks equipped with symmetric pairwise interactions. In this paper, we inspect the minimal amount of information that must be supplied to such a network to guarantee a successful generalization, and we test it both on random synthetic and on standard structured datasets (i.e., MNIST, Fashion-MNIST and Olivetti). By comparing these minimal thresholds of information with those required by the standard (i.e., always “awake”) Hopfield model, we prove that the present network can save up to ∼90% of the dataset size, yet preserving the same performance of the standard counterpart. This suggests that sleep may play a pivotal role in explaining the gap between the large volumes of data required to train artificial neural networks and the relatively small volumes needed by their biological counterparts. Further, we prove that the model Cost function (typically used in statistical mechanics) admits a representation in terms of a standard Loss function (typically used in machine learning) and this allows us to analyze its emergent computational skills both theoretically and computationally: a quantitative picture of its capabilities as a function of its control parameters is achieved and consistency between the two approaches is highlighted. The resulting network is an associative memory for pattern recognition tasks that learns from examples on-line, generalizes correctly (in suitable regions of its control parameters) and optimizes its storage capacity by off-line sleeping: such a reduction of the training cost can be inspiring toward sustainable AI and in situations where data are relatively sparse.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106174
JournalNeural Networks
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Hebbian learning
  • Hopfield model
  • Sleeping phenomena
  • Statistical mechanics

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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