High-resolution, color-coded images of local cerebral blood flow (LCBF) were made utilizing stable xenon-enhanced computed tomography among patients with common migraine (n = 18), classic migraine (n = 12) and cluster headache (n = 5). During spontaneously occurring headache in common and classic migraine patients, LCBF values for cerebral cortex and subcortical gray and white matter were diffusely increased by 20-40% with the exception of the occipital lobes. LCBF increases involved both hemispheres whether the head pain was unilateral or bilateral. No significant differences were noted in the degree or pattern of LCBF increases during headaches of common and classic migraineurs. Similar cerebral hyperperfusion of greater magnitude was observed during cluster headaches but was more prominent on the side of the head pain. Present observations do not support the hypothesis of spreading cortical depression as a cause of classic migraine. From a hemodynamic viewpoint, LCBF increases during headaches of common or classic migraine or cluster appear similar. Evidence is adduced that sympathetic hypofunction with denervation hypersensitivity of cerebral vessels plays a role in the cerebral hyperperfusion of migraine headaches. More pronounced unilateral autonomic derangements appear to account for the symptoms and cerebral hyperperfusion associated with cluster headaches.