Understanding and eliminating spurious modes in variational Monte Carlo using collective variables

Huan Zhang, Robert J. Webber, Michael Lindsey, Timothy C. Berkelbach, Jonathan Weare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of neural network parametrizations to represent the ground state in variational Monte Carlo (VMC) calculations has generated intense interest in recent years. However, as we demonstrate in the context of the periodic Heisenberg spin chain, this approach can produce unreliable wave function approximations. One of the most obvious signs of failure is the occurrence of random, persistent spikes in the energy estimate during training. These energy spikes are caused by regions of configuration space that are over-represented by the wave function density, which are called "spurious modes"in the machine learning literature. After exploring these spurious modes in detail, we demonstrate that a collective-variable-based penalization yields a substantially more robust training procedure, preventing the formation of spurious modes and improving the accuracy of energy estimates. Because the penalization scheme is cheap to implement and is not specific to the particular model studied here, it can be extended to other applications of VMC where a reasonable choice of collective variable is available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number023101
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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