Dr. Richard Simpson

Associate Professor

Office Number: 141 MEL
Phone: 713-743-9270
Fax: 713-743-9860


Mailing Address:
3875 Holman St., Rm 104 Garrison
Houston, TX 77204-6015

Research Interests

Dr Simpson's main research interests are focused on the effects that exercise, age and disease has on immune function. Immunosenescence is the term used to describe the biological aging of the immune system and is driven by a number of factors including poor lifestyle choices and reactivation of persistent viral infections. Dr Simpson's research team are focused on understanding the mechanisms by which regular physical exercise appears to negate the onset of immunosenescence during the natural course of aging. Other projects Dr Simpson's team are involved in include: (1) harnessing the immunoenhancing effects of acute exercise for clinical purposes; (2) exploring the effects of forced electrical stimulation cycling exercise on the immune system in spinal cord patients; (3) examining the effects of long-duration spaceflight missions on the immune system of astronauts; (4) understanding the impact of age, gender and infection history on the immune response to acute exercise; (5) developing submaximal exercise tests to measure ventilatory threshold in astronauts; and (6) using lactate threshold as a predictor of maximal steady state in trained cyclists. Dr Simpson also investigates the physiological demands of backpack load-carriage and performance indicators of soldiers. Dr Simpson's team currently (October 2012) consists of a postdoctoral scientist (Dr Guillaume Spielmann), 4 PhD students (Austin Bigley, Hawley Kunz, Emily LaVoy and Mira Momcilovic), 4 MS students (Patrick Howell, Jasmin Lindo-Gibbs, Mohammed Rahman and Justin Reed) and 1 research assistant (Nadia Agha).

Recent Publications and Research Activity

Journal Reviewer

Journal of Leukocyte Biology; Biological Psychiatry; Brain, Behavior and Immunity; Clinical Science; Journal of Applied Physiology; Psychosomatic Medicine; Antioxidant and Redox Signaling; Frontiers in Bioscience; Cytokine; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; International Journal of Sports Medicine; Research in Sports Medicine; Stress; International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; Journal of Sports Sciences; Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism.

Selected Peer-reviewed Publications (of 30)

LaVoy, E.C., Nieman, D.C. Henson, D.A., Shanely, R.A., Knab, A.M., Cialdella-Kam, L. & R. J. Simpson. Latent cytomegalovirus infection and innate immune function following a 75-km cycling time trial. European Journal of Applied Physiology. [Epub ahead of print].

Pistillo, M., Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., LaVoy, E.C., Morrison, M.R., Rahman, M. & R.J. Simpson. (2013) The effects of age and viral serology on γδ T-cell numbers and exercise responsiveness in humans. Cellular Immunology. [Epub ahead of print].

LaVoy, E.C., Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., Rector, J.L., Morrison, M.R., O’Connor, D.P. and R.J. Simpson. (2013) CMV amplifies T-cell redeployment to acute exercise independently ofHSV-1 serostatus. Med Sci Sports Exerc. [Epub ahead of print].

Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., LaVoy, E.C. and R.J. Simpson. (2013) Can exercise-related improvements in immunity influence cancer incidence and prognosis in the elderly? Maturitas. Invited Review. [Epub ahead of print].

Spielmann, G. Bollard, C.M., Bigley, A.B., Hanley, P.J., Blaney, J.W., LaVoy, E.C., Pircher, H. & R.J. Simpson. (2013) The effects of age and latent cytomegalovirus infection on the redeployment of CD8+ T cell subsets in response to acute exercise in humans. Brain Behav Immun. [Epub ahead of print].

Mehta, S.K., Crucian, B.E., Stowe, R.P., Simpson, R.J., Ott, C.M., Sams, C.F. and Pierson, D,L. (2012) Reactivation of latent viruses is associated with increased plasma cytokines in astronauts. Cytokine (Epub ahead of print)

LaVoy, E.C., Bosch, J.A., Lowder, T.W. and Simpson, R.J. (2012) Acute aerobic exercise in humans increases cytokine expression in CD27- but not CD27+ CD8+ T-cells. Brain, Behavior and Immunity (Epub ahead of print; doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.09.006)

Simpson, R.J., Lowder, T.W., Spielmann, G., Bigley, A.B., LaVoy, E.C. and Kunz, H. (2012) Exercise and the aging immune system. Ageing Research Reviews, 11, 404-20.

Bigley, A.B., Lowder, T.W., Spielmann, G., Rector, J. Pircher, H. and Simpson, R.J. (2012) NK-cells have an impaired response to acute exercise and a lower expression of the inhibitory receptors KLRG1 and CD158a in humans with latent cytomegalovirus infection. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 26: 177-186.

Cosgrove C, Galloway SD, Neal C, Hunter AM, McFarlin BK, Spielmann G, and Simpson RJ. (2012) The impact of 6-month training preparation for an Ironman triathlon on the proportions of naive, memory and senescent T cells in resting blood. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112, 2989-98.

LaVoy EC, McFarlin BK, Simpson RJ. (2011) Immune responses to exercising in a cold environment. Wilderness Environ Med, 22, 343-51.

Spielmann, G., McFarlin, B.K., O'Connor, D.P., Smith, P.J.W., Pircher, H. and Simpson, R.J. (2011) Aerobic fitness is associated with lower proportions of senescent blood T-cells in man. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 25, 1521-9.

Simpson R.J. (2011) Aging, persistent viral infections and immunosenescence: can exercise "make space"? Exercise and Sports Science Reviews, 39, 23-33. (Invited Review).

Simpson, R.J., Cosgrove, C., Chee, M.M., McFarlin, B.K., Bartlett, D.B., Spielmann, G., O'Connor, D.P., Pircher, H and Shiels, P. (2010) Senescent phenotypes and telomere lengths of peripheral blood T-cells mobilized by acute exercise in humans. Exercise Immunology Review, 16, 40-55.

Booth, S., Florida-James, G.D., McFarlin, B.K., Spielmann, G., O'Connor, D.P. and Simpson, R.J. (2010) The impact of acute strenuous exercise on TLR2, TLR4 and HLA.DR expression on human blood monocytes induced by autologous serum. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 110, 1259-1268.

Simpson, R.J. and Guy, K. (2010) Coupling aging immunity with a sedentary lifestyle: has the damage already been done? - A mini review. Gerontology, 56, 449-458. (Invited Review)

Simpson RJ, Graham SM, Florida-James GD, Connaboy C, Clement R, Jackson AS. (2010) Perceived exertion and heart rate models for estimating metabolic workload in elite British soldiers performing a backpack load-carriage task. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 35, 650-6.

Simpson, R.J., McFarlin, B.K., McSporran, C., Spielmann, G., Hartaigh, B.O. and Guy, K. (2009) Toll-like receptor expression on classic and pro-inflammatory blood monocytes after acute exercise in humans. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 23, 232-239.

Simpson, R.J., Cosgrove, C., Ingram, L.A., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Pircher, H. and Guy, K. (2008) Senescent T-lymphocytes are mobilised into the peripheral blood compartment in young and old humans after exhaustive exercise. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 22, 544-551.

Campbell, J.P., Guy, K., Cosgrove, C., Florida-James, G.D. and Simpson, R.J. (2008) Total lymphocyte CD8 expression is not a reliable marker of cytotoxic T-cell populations in human peripheral blood following an acute bout of high-intensity exercise. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 22, 375-380.

Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Cosgrove, C., Whyte, G.P., Macrae, S., Pircher, H. and Guy, K. (2007) High-intensity exercise elicits the mobilization of senescent T-lymphocytes into the peripheral blood compartment in human subjects. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103, 396-401.

Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Middleton, N., Shave, R., George, K. and Guy, K. (2007) The effects of marathon running on expression of the complement regulatory proteins CD55 and CD59 on red blood cells, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 99, 201-204.

Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Black, J.R., Ross, J.A. and Guy, K. (2007) Apoptosis does not contribute to the blood lymphocytopenia observed after intensive and downhill treadmill running in humans. Research in Sports Medicine, 15, 157-174.

Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P. and Guy, K. (2006) The effects of intensive, moderate and downhill treadmill running on human blood lymphocytes expressing the adhesion/activation molecules CD54 (ICAM-1), CD18 (?2 integrin) and CD53. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 97, 109-121.

Simpson RJ, Gray SC, Florida-James GD. (2006) Physiological variables and performance markers of serving soldiers from two "elite" units of the British Army. J Sports Sci, 24, 597-604.

Simpson, R. J., M. R. Wilson, J. R. Black, J. A. Ross, G. P. Whyte, K. Guy & G. D. Florida-James (2005) Immune alterations, lipid peroxidation, and muscle damage following a hill race. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 30, 196-211.

Published Book Chapters

Simpson, R.J. (In Press) The effects of exercise on blood leukocyte numbers. In: Immune Function in Sport and Exercise (2nd Edition). (Editor: Gleeson, M) Routledge, Oxford, UK

Simpson, R.J. (2012) "Immunosenescence". In: Encyclopedia of Exercise Medicine in Health and Disease. (Editor: Mooren, F.C.) Springer, NY, USA.

Simpson, R.J. & G. Spielmann (2012). Exercise and Immunosenescence. In: Immunosenescence: behavioural and psychosocial determinants. (Editors: Bosch, J.A., Phillips, A.C. and Lord J.M.) Springer, NY, USA.

Davison, G. & R.J. Simpson (2011). Immunity. In: Sport and Exercise Nutrition. (Editor: The Nutrition Society) Blackwell Publishing ltd., Cambridge, UK.

Ongoing Research Support

NASA NNJ10ZSA003N 10/01/2011-30/09/2014
"Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Microgravity on Salivary Markers of Innate Immunity"
The goal of this flight definition study is to examine the effects of spaceflight on salivary and blood markers of innate immunity. Samples will be collected from astronauts before, during (on the international space station) and after a 24-week spaceflight mission. Role: PI

Mission Connect, Texas Institute for Rehabilitation Research (TIRR) 04/01/2011-31/03/2012
"Immune and metabolic responses to FES cycling in patients with spinal cord injury"
The goal of this project is to examine the impact of a single bout of forced electrical stimulation (FES) exercise on in vitro immune function in quadriplegics and paraplegics with a view to using FES cycling as a countermeasure against impaired immunity due to spinal cord injury. Role: Co-I (PI: Thrasher)

Completed Research Support

NASA Human Research Program 06/01/2009-05/31/2011
"Development of a Submaximal Cycling Protocol to Identify the Ventilatory Threshold in Astronauts"
The goal of this ground-based definition study was to develop a submaximal exercise test to measure the ventilatory threshold in astronauts. Results generated from this study will be used in an applied setting to monitor changes in endurance capacity of astronauts in response to long-duration spaceflight missions. Role: PI

University of Houston New Faculty Research Support 01/03/2009-31/12/2009
"The Relationship between Obesity Severity and the Frequency of Senescent T-lymphocytes in Peripheral Blood" Role: PI

Institute for Space Systems Operations (ISSO) 01/06/2009-31/12/2009
"Validation of capillary blood collection as a means to monitor markers of immunity: application for crewmembers during long-duration space flight missions" Role: Co-PI

Other Experience and Professional Memberships

2002- Member, American College of Sports Medicine
2002-2008Member, British Society for Immunology
2002-Member, International Society of Exercise and Immunology
2010-Member, American Society of Immunologists
2011-Member, Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society (PNIRS)
2012-2014Guest Editor, Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Special Issue: "Exercise, Immunology and Health"


HND Fitness, Health and Exercise at Central College of Commerce, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, 1998

B.S. in Sport and Exercise Science (1st class) at Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2002

Ph.D. in Exercise Immunology at Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2005