In Restricted Boltzmann Machine (RBM), we define the energy function $E(\mathbf{v}, \mathbf{h}; \, \mathbf{W}, \mathbf{a}, \mathbf{b})$.

  • $\mathbf{v}$ is visible unit
  • $\mathbf{h}$ is hidden unit
  • $\mathbf{W}$ is the connection matrix between $\mathbf{v}$ and $\mathbf{h}$
  • $\mathbf{a}, \mathbf{b}$ are the bias vector for visible and hidden units

And the aim is to learn the parameter $\mathbf{W}$, $\mathbf{a}$ and $\mathbf{b}$. from the training sample.

My question: What is the intuition behind this setup? In particular, the concept of energy function $E$ is not found in other machine learning methods (e.g. ANN, CNN ...etc).

I know that RBM is related to statistical mechanics in Physics (e.g. Ising Model and Inverse Ising Problem), but I don't really understand why such concept is useful in machine learning.

Related paper: Restricted Boltzmann Machines for Collaborative Filtering


  • $\begingroup$ Which papers have you read? Please add the citations to your question. $\endgroup$
    – Neil G
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 1:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have edited the question with a paper added. $\endgroup$
    – K_inverse
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Originates from Sherrington–Kirkpatrick model $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


Artificial neural networks can be written as energy-based models. See LeCun, Yann, et al. "A tutorial on energy-based learning." Predicting structured data 1.0 (2006).

The energy-based model framework is just a convenient, intuitive way of thinking about models.

  • $\begingroup$ On p.11 of the paper (Sec. 2.2: Examples of Loss Functions), it stats that the loss function can be chosen simply as the energy function -- Eqn. (6). Does it mean that ANN can be regarded as EBM? $\endgroup$
    – K_inverse
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ @K_inverse no... $\endgroup$
    – Neil G
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 2:22

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