.. An emerging literature indicates that mindfulness training (MFT) can be used to treat fear and anxiety related disorders, but the treatment mechanisms are unclear. One hypothesis, largely based on findings from neuroimaging studies, states that MFT may improve extinction retention, but this has not been demonstrated empirically. To investigate this question healthy subjects either completed a 4-week MFT- intervention delivered through a smart-phone app (n = 14) or were assigned to a waitlist (n = 15). Subsequently, subjects participated in a two-day experimental protocol using pavlovian aversive conditioning, evaluating acquisition and extinction of threat-related responses on day 1, and extinction retention on day 2. Results showed that the MFT group displayed reduced spontaneous recovery of threat related arousal responses, as compared to the waitlist control group, on day 2.
MFT did not however, have an effect on either the acquisition or extinction of conditioned responses day 1. This clarifies the positive effect of MFT on emotional functioning and could have implications for the treatment of anxiety and trauma related disorders.