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# Faster Perturbed Stochastic Gradient Methods for Finding Local Minima

*Proceedings of The 33rd International Conference on Algorithmic Learning Theory*, PMLR 167:176-204, 2022.

#### Abstract

Escaping from saddle points and finding local minimum is a central problem in nonconvex optimization. Perturbed gradient methods are perhaps the simplest approach for this problem. However, to find $(\epsilon, \sqrt{\epsilon})$-approximate local minima, the existing best stochastic gradient complexity for this type of algorithms is $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3.5})$, which is not optimal. In this paper, we propose LENA (Last stEp shriNkAge), a faster perturbed stochastic gradient framework for finding local minima. We show that LENA with stochastic gradient estimators such as SARAH/SPIDER and STORM can find $(\epsilon, \epsilon_{H})$-approximate local minima within $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3} + \epsilon_{H}^{-6})$ stochastic gradient evaluations (or $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3})$ when $\epsilon_H = \sqrt{\epsilon}$). The core idea of our framework is a step-size shrinkage scheme to control the average movement of the iterates, which leads to faster convergence to the local minima.