During the 14th International Headache Congress the results of several innovative studies that contribute to our understanding of headache pathophysiology and treatment were presented. Here we summarize work expected to contribute substantially to understanding headache mechanisms, while an accompanying manuscript summarizes presentations regarding the treatment of headache. This manuscript highlights research on mechanisms of photophobia and phonophobia, pharmacologic inhibition of cortical spreading depression, a proposed mechanism by which oxygen effectively treats cluster headache, identification of functional and structural aberrations in people with hypnic headache, and research on functional imaging markers of a migraine attack.