Computer Science ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2016


Reservoir computing (RC) is a promising paradigm for time series processing. In this paradigm, the desired output is computed by combining measurements of an excitable system that responds to time-dependent exogenous stimuli. The excitable system is called a reservoir and measurements of its state are combined using a readout layer to produce a target output. The power of RC is attributed to an emergent short-term memory in dynamical systems and has been analyzed mathematically for both linear and nonlinear dynamical systems. The theory of RC treats only the macroscopic properties of the reservoir, without reference to the underlying medium it is made of. As a result, RC is particularly attractive for building computational devices using emerging technologies whose structure is not exactly controllable, such as self-assembled nanoscale circuits. RC has lacked a formal framework for performance analysis and prediction that goes beyond memory properties. To provide such a framework, here a mathematical theory of memory and information processing in ordered and disordered linear dynamical systems is developed. This theory analyzes the optimal readout layer for a given task. The focus of the theory is a standard model of RC, the echo state network (ESN). An ESN consists of a fixed recurrent neural network that is driven by an external signal. The dynamics of the network is then combined linearly with readout weights to produce the desired output. The readout weights are calculated using linear regression.

Using an analysis of regression equations, the readout weights can be calculated using only the statistical properties of the reservoir dynamics, the input signal, and the desired output. The readout layer weights can be calculated from a priori knowledge of the desired function to be computed and the weight matrix of the reservoir. This formulation explicitly depends on the input weights, the reservoir weights, and the statistics of the target function. This formulation is used to bound the expected error of the system for a given target function. The effects of input-output correlation and complex network structure in the reservoir on the computational performance of the system have been mathematically characterized. Far from the chaotic regime, ordered linear networks exhibit a homogeneous decay of memory in different dimensions, which keeps the input history coherent. As disorder is introduced in the structure of the network, memory decay becomes inhomogeneous along different dimensions causing decoherence in the input history, and degradation in task-solving performance. Close to the chaotic regime, the ordered systems show loss of temporal information in the input history, and therefore inability to solve tasks. However, by introducing disorder and therefore heterogeneous decay of memory the temporal information of input history is preserved and the task-solving performance is recovered. Thus for systems at the edge of chaos, disordered structure may enhance temporal information processing. Although the current framework only applies to linear systems, in principle it can be used to describe the properties of physical reservoir computing, e.g., photonic RC using short coherence-length light.




reservoir computing, recurrent neural network, excitable dynamics, dynamical systems

Document Type


Degree Name

Computer Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Computer Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Darko Stefanovic

Second Committee Member

Christof Teuscher

Third Committee Member

Lance Williams

Fourth Committee Member

Melanie Moses

Fifth Committee Member

Stephanie Forrest