I am trying to understand different Recurrent neural network (RNN) architectures to be applied to time series data and I am getting a bit confused with the different names that are frequently used when describing RNNs. Is the structure of Long short term memory (LSTM) and Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU) essentially a RNN with a feedback loop?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please spell out your acronyms. $\endgroup$ – gung Jul 7 '16 at 13:05

All RNNs have feedback loops in the recurrent layer. This lets them maintain information in 'memory' over time. But, it can be difficult to train standard RNNs to solve problems that require learning long-term temporal dependencies. This is because the gradient of the loss function decays exponentially with time (called the vanishing gradient problem). LSTM networks are a type of RNN that uses special units in addition to standard units. LSTM units include a 'memory cell' that can maintain information in memory for long periods of time. A set of gates is used to control when information enters the memory, when it's output, and when it's forgotten. This architecture lets them learn longer-term dependencies. GRUs are similar to LSTMs, but use a simplified structure. They also use a set of gates to control the flow of information, but they don't use separate memory cells, and they use fewer gates.

This paper gives a good overview:

Chung et al. (2014). Empirical Evaluation of Gated Recurrent Neural Networks on Sequence Modeling.


Standard RNNs (Recurrent Neural Networks) suffer from vanishing and exploding gradient problems. LSTMs (Long Short Term Memory) deal with these problems by introducing new gates, such as input and forget gates, which allow for a better control over the gradient flow and enable better preservation of “long-range dependencies”.


LSTMs are often referred to as fancy RNNs. Vanilla RNNs do not have a cell state. They only have hidden states and those hidden states serve as the memory for RNNs.

Meanwhile, LSTM has both cell states and a hidden states. The cell state has the ability to remove or add information to the cell, regulated by "gates". And because of this "cell", in theory, LSTM should be able to handle the long-term dependency (in practice, it's difficult to do so.)



We can say that, when we move from RNN to LSTM (Long Short-Term Memory), we are introducing more & more controlling knobs, which control the flow and mixing of Inputs as per trained Weights. And thus, bringing in more flexibility in controlling the outputs. So, LSTM gives us the most Control-ability and thus, Better Results. But also comes with more Complexity and Operating Cost.



LSTM is an extended version of GRU.

This image demonstrates the difference between them:

enter image description here


protected by Sycorax Aug 1 at 13:18

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.