Simeon Cairns

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Associate Professor

Phone: + 64 9 921 9999 ext. 7125


Physical Address:
AUT University
School of Sport and Recreation
90 Akoranga Drive
Postal Address:

AUT University
School of Sport and Recreation
Private Bag 92006
Auckland 1142

span class="HeliaCore-Medium">Links webpages:
IBTec - Institute of Biomedical Technologies (AUT University)
HRRI - Health and Rehabilitation Research Institute (AUT University)
MyoNaK - International Research Interest group – Potassium, Sodium and the Function of Heart and Skeletal Muscle
Auckland Bioengineering Institute (Auckland University)
Table Tennis New Zealand
New Zealand Physiological Society
Australian Physiological Society

Teaching Areas:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Exercise Science and Exercise Physiology
  • Research Methods and Industry Experience, Integrative Research
  • Cooperative Education

Research Areas:

  • Cellular mechanisms of skeletal muscle fatigue (in particular the role of electrolytes – potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, hydrogen ions)
  • Assessment of fatigue during prolonged and high-intensity exercise
  • Central nervous system control of muscle/exercise performance
  • Racquet sports physiology and performance
  • Influence of supplements (β-agonists, caffeine) on muscle/exercise performance
  • Airways smooth muscle and asthma
  • Disuse/immobilisation and muscle performance disorders
  • Stress response during white-water kayaking

Research Summary:

Simeon’s main research area is muscle/exercise physiology where he is a world authority on the topic of electrolytes and muscle fatigue. He has published original articles, reviews and book chapters in highly rated physiology and exercise science journals (see examples below) and has presented invited seminars throughout the world - including two World tours. Has strong collaborative links with well-known international academics (in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia), as well as New Zealand academics (in Dunedin, Auckland).

The experimental approaches employed vary from studies on isolated single muscle fibres to simulated sport activities. He is a former New Zealand table tennis representative and Olympic coach, which provided the impetus for work involving extended career elite athletes. Currently he is the sport science coordinator for Table Tennis New Zealand. Has supervised 18 post-graduate students to completion and is currently supervising three PhD students.



Current Research Projects:

  • Potassium, fatigue and muscle paralysis
  • Measurement of action potential trains in isolated muscle fibres
  • Symptoms of fatigue during sport competition
  • β-adrenergic agonists and muscle/exercise performance
  • Central fatigue and human limb muscle function
  • Longevity in extended career Olympic athletes



CAIRNS, S.P., and BORRANI, F. (2015) β-Adrenergic modulation of skeletal muscle contraction: key role of excitation-contraction coupling. J. Physiol. (Lond.) (in press).

CAIRNS, S.P., LEADER, J.P., LOISELLE, D.S., HIGGINS, A., LIN W., and RENAUD, J.M. (2015) Extracellular Ca2+-induced force restoration in K+-depressed skeletal muscle of the mouse involves an elevation of [K+]i: implications for fatigue. J. Appl. Physiol. 118: 662-674.

CAIRNS, S.P. (2013) Holistic approaches to understanding mechanisms of fatigue in high-intensity sport. Fatigue: Biomed. Health Behav. 1(2): 1-20.

McINTYRE, J.P.R., MAWSTON, G.A., and CAIRNS, S.P. (2012) Changes of whole-body power, muscle function and jump performance with prolonged cycling to exhaustion. Int. J. Sports Physiol. Perform. 7: 332-339.

CAIRNS, S.P. (2011) The central governor of exercise performance: fact or fiction? N.Z. J. Sports Med. 38(2): 47-50 [Invited commentary].

CAIRNS, S.P., LEADER, J.P., and LOISELLE, D.S. (2011) Exacerbated potassium-induced paralysis of mouse soleus muscle at 37oC vis-à-vis 25oC: implications for fatigue. Pflügers Arch. Eur. J. Physiol. 461: 469-479.

KNICKER, A.J., RENSHAW, I., OLDHAM, A.R.H., and CAIRNS, S.P. (2011) Interactive processes link the multiple symptoms of fatigue in sport competition. Sports Med. 41(4): 307-328.

IJPMA, G., AL-JUMAILY, AS.M., CAIRNS, S.P., and SIECK, G.C. (2010) Logarithmic superposition of force response with rapid length changes in relaxed porcine airway smooth muscle. Am. J. Physiol. Lung Cell Mol. Physiol. 299: L898-L904.

CAIRNS, S.P., TABERNER A.J., and LOISELLE, D.S. (2009) Changes of surface and t tubular membrane excitability during fatigue with repeated tetani in isolated mouse fast- and slow-twitch muscle. J. Appl. Physiol. 106 (1): 101-112.

CAIRNS, S.P., and LINDINGER. M.I. (2008) Do multiple ionic interactions contribute to skeletal muscle fatigue? J. Physiol. (Lond.) 586 (17): 4039-4054.

CAIRNS, S.P., and LINDINGER. M.I. (2008) Do multiple ionic interactions contribute to skeletal muscle fatigue? J. Physiol. (Lond.) 586 (17): 4039-4054.

CAIRNS, S.P., ROBINSON, D.M., and LOISELLE, D.S (2008) Double-sigmoid model for fitting fatigue profiles in mouse fast- and slow-twitch muscle. Exp. Physiol. 93 (7): 851-862.

CAIRNS, S.P., CHIN, E.R., and RENAUD, J-M. (2007) Stimulation pulse characteristics and electrode configuration determine site of excitation in isolated mammalian skeletal muscle: implications for fatigue. J. Appl. Physiol. 103 (1): 359-368.

CAIRNS, S.P. (2006) Lactic acid and exercise performance: culprit or friend? Sports Med. 36 (4): 279-291.

STUART, G.R., HOPKINS, W.G., COOK, C., and CAIRNS, S.P. (2005) Multiple effects of caffeine on simulated high-intensity team-sport performance. Med. Sci. Sport Exerc. 37 (11): 1998-2005.

PRESLAND, J.D., DOWSON, M.N., and CAIRNS, S.P. (2005) Changes of motor drive, cortical arousal and perceived exertion following prolonged cycling to exhaustion. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 95 (1): 42-51.

CAIRNS, S.P., KNICKER, A.J., THOMPSON, M.W., and SJØGAARD, G. (2005) Evaluation of models used to study neuromuscular fatigue. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev. 33 (1): 9-16.

CAIRNS, S.P., RUZHYNSKY, V., and RENAUD, J-M. (2004) Protective role of extracellular chloride in fatigue of isolated mammalian skeletal muscle. Am. J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 287 (3 56-3): C762-C770.

CAIRNS, S.P., BULLER, S.J., LOISELLE, D.S., and RENAUD, J-M. (2003) Changes of action potentials and force at lowered [Na+]o in mouse skeletal muscle: implications for fatigue. Am. J. Physiol. Cell Physiol. 285 (5 54-5): C1131-C1141.