Enhanced Robustness of Convolutional Networks with a Push-Pull Inhibition Layer

Nicola Strisciuglio*, Manuel Lopez-Antequera, Nicolai Petkov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) lack robustness to test image corruptions that are not seen during training. In this paper, we propose a new layer for CNNs that increases their robustness to several types of corruptions of the input images. We call it a ‘push–pull’ layer and compute its response as the combination of two half-wave rectified convolutions, with kernels of different size and opposite polarity. Its implementation is based on a biologically motivated model of certain neurons in the visual system that exhibit response suppression, known as push–pull inhibition. We validate our method by replacing the first convolutional layer of the LeNet, ResNet and DenseNet architectures with our push–pull layer. We train the networks on original training images from the MNIST and CIFAR data sets and test them on images with several corruptions, of different types and severities, that are unseen by the training process. We experiment with various configurations of the ResNet and DenseNet models on a benchmark test set with typical image corruptions constructed on the CIFAR test images. We demonstrate that our push–pull layer contributes to a considerable improvement in robustness of classification of corrupted images, while maintaining state-of-the-art performance on the original image classification task. We released the code and trained models at the url http://github.com/nicstrisc/Push-Pull-CNN-layer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17957-17971
Number of pages15
JournalNeural Computing and Applications
Issue number24
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Convolutional neural networks
  • Image corruption
  • Network robustness
  • Neuron response inhibition
  • Push–pull layer


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