I'm trying to create a simple blogpost on RNNs, that should give a better insight into how they work in Keras. Let's say:

model = keras.models.Sequential()
model.add(keras.layers.SimpleRNN(5, return_sequences=True, input_shape=[None, 1]))
model.add(keras.layers.SimpleRNN(5, return_sequences=True))

I came up with the following visualization (this is only a sketch), which I'm quite unsure about:

enter image description here

The RNN architecture is comprised of 3 layers represented in the picture.

Question: is this correct? Is the input "flowing" thought each layer neuron to neuron or only though the layers, like in the picture below. Is there anything else that is not correct - any other visualizations to look into?

enter image description here

Update: my assumptions are based on my understanding from what I saw in Geron's book. The recurrent neurons are connected, see: https://pasteboard.co/JDXTFVw.png ... he then proceeds to talk about connections between different layers, see: https://pasteboard.co/JDXTXcz.png - did I misunderstand him or is it just a peculiarity in keras framework?

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    $\begingroup$ As you can see in fig 15-2, neurons in a layer don't communicate with each other, it is unrolled version in the 2nd part of 15-2, ie. it is the same layer across each timestep, there is no next layer in that diagram. In fig 15-1, a single neuron is shown (unrolled on right). What's happening for a single neuron in 15-1 is happening to every neuron in 15-2, there is no concept of multiple layers introduced in the images you referenced, they are different timesteps for the same neuron/layer. $\endgroup$
    – SajanGohil
    Dec 8, 2020 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ Yea, I was getting the 2nd part of the argument you presented, now I also understand the first one - the confusion creeped in because the example was using a single neuron RNN as a simplified self-contained network and then added several cells in a single layer RNN. As you said - both pictures show single layer RNN unrolled through time, the difference being the first one has a single neuron and the other has multiple neurons in that layer. Thanks $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2020 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


The first image is correct. The information will flow from left to right in each layer and from top to bottom in between layers.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment I take it that there should be 5 nodes in the picture, not 4? Also good point on the hidden state - I think I'm missing this part as well - is the hidden state passed to the dense layer and the y value (prediction)? $\endgroup$ Dec 8, 2020 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @SajanGohil yes you are right, I haven't noticed the return sequence=True on the second layer. I will update the answer. $\endgroup$
    – razvanc92
    Dec 8, 2020 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MindaugasBernatavičius Yes there should had been 5 nodes instead of 4. I have removed the picture since it's not mandatory anymore. Yes the hidden state is passed to the Dense layer. If you select return_sequences=True, each hidden state from the last RNN layer is passed through the dense layer. If you set return_sequences to false, then only the last hidden state from the last RNN layer is sent to the Dense layer. $\endgroup$
    – razvanc92
    Dec 8, 2020 at 11:47

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