Recent DIII-D experiments have significantly improved the understanding of internal transport barriers (ITBs) that are triggered close to the time when an integer value of the minimum in q is crossed. While this phenomenon has been observed on many tokamaks, the extensive transport and fluctuation diagnostics on DIII-D have permitted a detailed study of the generation mechanisms of q-triggered ITBs as pertaining to turbulence suppression dynamics, shear flows, and energetic particle modes. In these discharges, the evolution of the q profile is measured using motional Stark effect polarimetry and the integer qmincrossings are further pinpointed in time by the observation of Alfvén cascades. High time resolution measurements of the ion and electron temperatures and the toroidal rotation show that the start of improved confinement is simultaneous in all three channels, and that this event precedes the traversal of integer qminby 5-20 ms. There is no significant low-frequency magnetohydrodynamic activity prior to or just after the crossing of the integer qminand hence magnetic reconnection is determined not to be the precipitant of the confinement change. Instead, results from the GYRO code point to the effects of zonal flows near low order rational q values as playing a role in ITB triggering. A reduction in local turbulent fluctuations is observed at the start of the temperature rise and, concurrently, an increase in turbulence poloidal flow velocity and flow shear is measured with the beam emission spectroscopy diagnostic. For the case of a transition to an enduring internal barrier the fluctuation level remains at a reduced amplitude. The timing and nature of the temperature, rotation, and fluctuation changes leading to internal barriers suggests transport improvement due to increased shear flow arising from the zonal flow structures. © 2005 American Institute of Physics.