What does the backward() function do?

loss.backward() computes dloss/dx for every parameter x which has requires_grad=True. These are accumulated into x.grad for every parameter x. In pseudo-code:

x.grad += dloss/dx

optimizer.step updates the value of x using the gradient x.grad. For example, the SGD optimizer performs:

x += -lr * x.grad

optimizer.zero_grad() clears x.grad for every parameter x in the optimizer. It’s important to call this before loss.backward(), otherwise you’ll accumulate the gradients from multiple passes.

If you have multiple losses (loss1, loss2) you can sum them and then call backwards once:

loss3 = loss1 + loss2