Neural correlates of blood flow measured by ultrasound
Functional ultrasound imaging (fUSI) is an appealing method for measuring blood flow and thus infer brain activity, but it relies on the physiology of neurovascular coupling and requires extensive signal processing. To establish to what degree fUSI trial-by-trial signals reflect neural activity, we performed simultaneous fUSI and neural recordings with Neuropixels probes in awake mice. fUSI signals strongly correlated with the slow (<0.3 Hz) fluctuations in the local firing rate and were closely predicted by the smoothed firing rate of local neurons, particularly putative inhibitory neurons. The optimal smoothing filter had a width of ∼3 s, matched the hemodynamic response function of awake mice, was invariant across mice and stimulus conditions, and was similar in the cortex and hippocampus. fUSI signals also matched neural firing spatially: firing rates were as highly correlated across hemispheres as fUSI signals. Thus, blood flow measured by ultrasound bears a simple and accurate relationship to neuronal firing.