In monocular pattern rivalry, a composite image is shown to both eyes. The patient experiences perceptual alternations in which the two stimulus components alternate in clarity or salience. We used fMRI at 3T to image brain activity while participants perceived monocular rivalry passively or indicated their percepts with a task. The stimulus patterns were left/right oblique gratings, face/house composites, or a nonrivalrous control stimulus that did not support the perception of transparency or image segmentation. All stimuli were matched for luminance, contrast, and color. Compared with the control stimulus, the cortical activation for passive viewing of grating rivalry included dorsal and ventral extrastriate cortex, superior and inferior parietal regions, and multiple sites in frontal cortex. When the BOLD signal for the object rivalry task was compared with the grating rivalry task, a similar whole-brain network was engaged, but with significantly greater activity in extrastriate regions, including V3, V3A, fusiform face area (FFA), and parahippocampal place area (PPA). In addition, for the object rivalry task, FFA activity was significantly greater during face-dominant periods whereas parahippocampal place area activity was greater during house-dominant periods. Our results demonstrate that slight stimulus changes that trigger monocular rivalry recruit a large whole-brain network, as previously identified for other forms of bistability. Moreover, the results indicate that rivalry for complex object stimuli preferentially engages extrastriate cortex. We also establish that even with natural viewing conditions, endogenous attentional fluctuations in monocular pattern rivalry will differentially drive object-category-specific cortex, similar to binocular rivalry, but without complete suppression of the nondominant image.

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