Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is an important tool for investigating human brain function, but the relationship between the hemodynamically based fMRI signals in the human brain and the underlying neuronal activity is unclear. We recorded single unit activity and local field potentials in auditory cortex of two neurosurgical patients and compared them with the fMRI signals of 11 healthy subjects during presentation of an identical movie segment. The predicted fMRI signals derived from single units and the measured fMRI signals from auditory cortex showed a highly significant correlation (r = 0.75, P < 10-47). Thus, fMRI signals can provide a reliable measure of the firing rate of human cortical neurons.
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