Face inversion produces a detrimental effect on face recognition. The extent to which the inversion of faces and other kinds of objects influences the perceptual binding of visual information into global forms is not known. We used a behavioral method and functional MRI (fMRI) to measure the effect of face inversion on visual persistence, a type of perceptual memory that reflects sustained awareness of global form. We found that upright faces persisted longer than inverted versions of the same images; we observed a similar effect of inversion on the persistence of animal stimuli. This effect of inversion on persistence was evident in sustained fMRI activity throughout the ventral visual hierarchy, including the lateral occipital area (LO), two face-selective visual areas--the fusiform face area (FFA) and the occipital face area (OFA)--and several early visual areas. V1 showed the same initial fMRI activation to upright and inverted forms but this activation lasted longer for upright stimuli. The inversion effect on persistence-related fMRI activity in V1 and other retinotopic visual areas demonstrates that higher-tier visual areas influence early visual processing via feedback. This feedback effect on figure-ground processing is sensitive to the orientation of the figure.