# Regression with neural network

I tried to create a neural network for regression. In order to test the concept, I created a dataset the following way:

x1 = random('Normal',0,5,500,1);
x2 = random('Normal',0,5,500,1);
y = x1 + 2*x2;
X = [x1 x2];


So x1 and x2 are vectors of random numbers with mean value 0 and standard deviation 5.

The neural network therefore had 2 inputs, 2 or 3 units in hidden layer and one output unit. In hidden layer units I implemented sigmoid activation function and in the output layer linear function:

h(y) = 1*k20 + a1*k21+ a2*k22 + a3*k23


and for hidden layer outputs are calculated the following way:

a1 = sigmoid(1*k10 + x1*k11 + x2*k12)
(and similarly a2 = sigmoid(1*l10 + x1*l11 + x2*l12)


Edit: The Backpropagation algorithm is implemented the following way:

Delta_1=0;
Delta_2=0;

for t=1:m
currentSampleSize = sampleSize(t,:);
for i = 1 : currentSampleSize
% Step 1
a_1 = X(t,:)';
z_2 = Theta1*a_1;
a_2 = sigmoid(z_2);
a_2 = [1; a_2];
z_3 = Theta2*a_2;
a_3 = z_3;

% Step 2
delta_3 = (a_3 - y_new(t,:)');

% Step 3
grad = m^(-1) * X' * (a_3-y);
delta_2 = delta_2(2:end);

%Step 4
Delta_2 = Delta_2 + delta_3*a_2';
Delta_1 = Delta_1 + delta_2*a_1';
end
end

reg_1 = lambda/m.*Theta1(:,2:end);
reg_2 = lambda/m.*Theta2(:,2:end);



As the predictions are not accurate I wonder what could be done in order to improve the regression performance. I tried to change the combinations of number of neurons in hidden layer and different regularization parameter values but the performance wasn't good enough.

I would be very thankful if anyone could describe the appropriate design of neural network for regression problems - which activation functions are most appropriate and how to diagnose training and test error for choosing the optimal number of hidden units.

• Sorry about my earlier comment, did not notice it was a toy example.
– Gala
Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 7:40
• I evaluate the performance by checking training and test error. I just wanted to try out the concept with neural networks. Actually I wanted to reproduce the time series prediction result from the book (Machine Learning: An Algorithmic Perspective) and couldn't achieve comparable results so I wanted to find the main cause of bad performance.
– niko
Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 7:42

Unless you restrict the range of your inputs, the sigmoid may be giving you a problem. You won't even be able to learn the function $y=x$ if you have a sigmoid in the middle.

If you have a restricted range, then the input-hidden weights could scale the input values so that they hit the sigmoid at the part of the graph which looks like a line i.e. the part around 0:

Once you have the linear behavior, the hidden-output weights could re-scale the values back. The training process will take care of all this for you - but to test this hypothesis you could just train (and validate) with input values in $[-1,1]$.

Do you know what the network's function looks like? If you plot $(x_1, x_2) \rightarrow y$, does it look anything like a plane? At least in parts?

You could also try training with more data and seeing if the graph gets closer to $x_1+2x_2$.

Assuming you wrote the implementation yourself, you may simply have a bug in your backpropagation algorithm. Some bugs can be quite subtle and leave the algorithm partially working with poor performance. You might try adding some gradient checking code to your implementation to verify the calculated gradients. Here's an excellent video by Andrew Ng on how to do this: