What is Convolutional Long Short-Term Memory

Convolutional Long Short-Term Memory: An Overview


Convolutional Long Short-Term Memory (ConvLSTM) is an advanced deep learning architecture that combines the prediction power of Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) and the memory capabilities of Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) units. ConvLSTMs were developed to apply deep learning to spatiotemporal data, such as videos and weather forecast sequences. The ConvLSTM is suitable for detecting patterns and making predictions in sequences with spatial and temporal dependencies.

In this article, we will provide an in-depth explanation of the ConvLSTM architecture, including its components and working, applications, and future research directions.

What is Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM)?

LSTM is a type of recurrent neural network (RNN) that was introduced to address the vanishing gradient problem in traditional RNNs, which affects the ability of the network to capture long-term dependencies. LSTM networks are comprised of memory cells, input gates, output gates, and forget gates. The input gates regulate the information that is stored in the memory cells, while the output gates control the information that is passed to the next layer or the final output. The forget gates prevent old information from being remembered for too long, allowing the network to balance short-term and long-term memory.

LSTMs are popular in many applications, such as natural language processing, speech recognition, and time-series forecasting. However, LSTM networks are designed for one-dimensional sequences with limited or no interaction between sequence elements. For example, text sequences are unidimensional and do not have any spatial aspect. Therefore, LSTM cannot capture spatial dependencies in multi-dimensional data, such as image or video data. This is where ConvLSTM comes in.

What is Convolutional Neural Network (CNN)?

CNN is a type of deep learning network that is designed for image and video processing. CNNs are capable of detecting patterns in visual data by filtering through the input images and extracting relevant features. The filters, called kernels or weights, slide over the input image to capture spatial patterns. The output of the filters is then passed through activation functions such as rectified linear unit (ReLU), which increases the non-linearity in the feature space. Pooling layers are often added to the end of convolutional layers to reduce the dimensionality of the feature map.

CNNs are commonly used in many applications such as image classification, object detection, and segmentation. However, they are not designed for temporal data processing, as they cannot remember previous states of the sequence.

What is ConvLSTM?

ConvLSTM is a spatiotemporal neural network architecture that combines the convolutional operations of CNNs with the memory capabilities of LSTMs. The ConvLSTM was introduced to capture spatial and temporal dependencies in multi-dimensional data, such as videos, weather forecast sequences, and medical imaging. ConvLSTM is based on a 4D tensor input format, which includes the spatial dimensions (height and width), the temporal dimension (time or sequence length), and the number of feature maps (channels).

The ConvLSTM architecture consists of three components: the input gate, the forget gate, and the output gate, and each component contains convolutional layers. The input gate controls the flow of information from the input sequence to the memory cell, while the forget gate removes irrelevant information from the memory cell. The output gate controls the output of the current state and the memory cell to the next layer.

In a simple ConvLSTM cell, the input X is first passed through two convolutional operations, followed by a forget gate, an input gate, a candidate cell state, and an output gate. The equations for the ConvLSTM cell are as follows:

                                                      i(t) = σ(W_f * X(t) + U_f * h(t-1) + b_f)

f(t) = σ(W_i * X(t) + U_i * h(t-1) + b_i)

C(t) = f(t) * C(t-1) + i(t) * tanh(W_c * X(t) + U_c * h(t-1) + b_c)

o(t) = σ(W_o * X(t) + U_o * h(t-1) + b_o)

h(t) = o(t) * tanh(C(t))

where X(t) is the input sequence at time step t, h(t-1) is the previous hidden state, and * denotes convolution operation. W and U are the weight matrices, and b is the bias vector. σ is the sigmoid activation function, while tanh is the hyperbolic tangent activation function.

Applications of ConvLSTM:

ConvLSTM has been applied in various applications such as computer vision, autonomous driving, robotics, and climate modelling. Some of the notable applications are:

Video processing and prediction: ConvLSTM is ideal for video processing and prediction since it can capture the spatial and temporal dependencies in the video sequence. ConvLSTMs have been used to generate video frames, generate video captions, and predict future frames of the sequence.

Autonomous driving: ConvLSTMs have been applied to detect pedestrians in autonomous driving scenarios. Since ConvLSTM can capture the dependencies between the pedestrian's movement and the motion of environment components like cars and traffic lights, it can improve pedestrian detection accuracy.

Medical imaging: ConvLSTMs have been applied to processing medical imaging data, such as electroencephalography (EEG) signals and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. ConvLSTMs can learn the temporal dynamics of the signals, which can be useful in detecting epileptic seizures or predicting disease progression.

Weather forecasting: ConvLSTMs have been applied to climate modelling, where they can predict weather patterns such as storm and hurricane trajectories. ConvLSTMs can capture the complex interplay between temperature, pressure, and wind patterns.


In conclusion, ConvLSTM is an advanced deep learning architecture that combines the strengths of CNNs and LSTMs. ConvLSTM is ideal for processing spatiotemporal data, such as videos, weather forecast sequences, and medical imaging. ConvLSTMs have been applied in various applications, including video processing and prediction, autonomous driving, medical imaging, and climate modelling. As a result, the ConvLSTM architecture has become an essential tool for researchers to use when working with spatiotemporal data.