Gerta Vrbová, a guide and a friend for a generation of neuro-myologists – Her scientific legacies and relations with colleagues

Published: 9 February 2021
Abstract Views: 724
PDF: 354
Publisher's note
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


Gerta Sidonová - Vrbová, (Trnava, Slovakia, November 28, 1926 - London, UK, October 2, 2020) has been a key neuroscientist, who for almost half a century has contributed important findings and hypotheses on the relationships between motoneurons and skeletal muscle fibers, in particular on the differentiation and extent of plasticity of the peculiar characteristics of the different types of fibers present in mammalian muscles. This issue, Ejtm 31 (1), 2021, opens with the personal obituary authored by Dirk Pette, who remember his lifelong collaboration with Gerta, describing the many molecular and metabolic events that occur by changing the pattern of activation of adult muscle fibers through neuromuscular low frequency electrical stimulation. To honor the many scientific legacies of Gerta Vrbová and her impact on a generation of researchers studying myology and managements of neuromuscular disorders I add here additional examples of Gerta’s scientific heritage and of her relations with colleagues.



PlumX Metrics


Download data is not yet available.


Caroline Hilton. The Guardian, International Edition. 2020. Available at:
Gerta Vrbová Obituary, The Times. Monday November 23 2020, 12.01am GMT, Available at: 0069-418594896.1610350069
Dirk Pette. The significance of Gerta Vrbová's low- frequency stimulation experiment. Eur J Transl Myol. 31 (1): 9585, 2021
Carraro U, Catani C, Biral D. Selective maintenance of neurotrophically regulated proteins in denervated rat diaphragm. Exp Neurol. 1979 Mar;63(3):468-75.
Vrbová G. The effect of motoneurone activity on the speed of contraction of striated muscle. J Physiol. 1963 Dec;169(3):513-26.
Salmons S, Vrbová G. Changes in the speed of mammalian fast muscle following longterm stimulation. J Physiol. 1967 Sep;192(2):39P-40P .
Salmons S, Vrbová G. The influence of activity on some contractile characteristics of mammalian fast and slow muscles. J Physiol. 1969 May;201(3):535- 49.
Pette D, Müller W, Leisner WE, Vrbová G. Time dependent effects on contractile properties, fibre population, myosin light chains end enzymes of energy metabolism in intermittently and continously stimulated fast twitch muscles of the rabbit. Plügers Arch. 1976 Jul 30;364(2):103-12.
Pette D, Vrbová G. Invited review: neural control of phenotypic expression in mammalian muscle fibers. Muscle Nerve. 1985 Oct;8(8):676-89.
Pette D, Vrbová G. Adaptations of mammalian muscle fibers to chronic electrical stimulation. Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol. 1992; 120: 116-202.
Salmons S. An implantable muscle stimulator. J Physiol. 1967 Jan;188(2):13P–14P.
Salmons S, Sreter FA. Significance of impulse activity in the transformation of skeletal muscle type. Nature. 1976 Sep 2;263(5572):30-4.
Salmons S, Henriksson J. The adaptive response of skeletal muscle to increased use. Muscle Nerve. Mar-Apr 1981;4(2):94-105.
Lømo T, Westgaard RH, Dahl HA. Contractile properteies of muscle: control by pattern of muscle activity in the rat. Proc Roy Soc. 1974 Aug 27;187(1086):99-103.
Lømo T, Westgaard RH. Further studies on the control of ACh sensitivity by muscle activity in the rat. J Physiol. 1975 Nov;252(3):603-26.
Hennig R, Lømo T. Firing patterns of motor units in normal rats. Nature. 1985 Mar 14-20;314 (6007):164-6.
Lømo T, Massoulié J, Vigny M. Stimulation of denervated rat soleus muscle with fast and slow activity patterns induces different expression of acetylcholinesterase molecular forms. J Neurosci. 1985 May;5(5):1180-7.
Gundersen K, Leberer E, Lømo T, Pette D, Staron RS. Effects of chronic stimulation on the size and speed of long-term denervated and innervated rat fast and slow skeletal muscles. J Physiol. 1988 Apr;398:177-89.
Gundersen K, Leberer E, Lømo T, Pette D, Staron RS. Fibre types, calcium-sequestering proteins and metabolic enzymes in denervated and chronically stimulated muscles of the rat. J Physiol. 1988 Apr;398:177-89.
Windisch A, Gundersen K, Szabolcs MJ, Gruber H, Lømo T. Fast to slow transformation of denervated and electrically stimulated rat muscle. J Physiol. 1998 Jul 15;510 (Pt 2)(Pt 2):623-32.
Schiaffino S, Reggiani C. Fiber types in skeletal muscles. Physiol Rev. 2011 Oct;91(4):1447-531.
Lømo T. The response of denervated muscle to long-term stimulation (1985, revisited here in 2014. 2014;24 (1):3294.
Singer RH. 2020 Distance Meeting: Farewell to Professor David Yaffe - A pillar of the myogenesis field. Eur J Transl Myol. 2020 Sep 9;30(3):9327.
Yablonka-Reuveni Z, Stockdale F, Nudel U, Israeli D, Blau HM, Shainberg A, Neuman S, Kessler- Icekson G, Krull EM, Paterson B, Fuchs OS, Greenberg D, Sarig R, Halevy O, Ozawa E, Katcoff DJ. Farewell to Professor David Yaffe - A pillar of the myogenesis field. Eur J Transl Myol. 2020 Aug 18;30(3):9306.
Carraro U, Catani C, Dalla Libera L. Myosin light and heavy chains in rat gastrocnemius and diaphragm muscles after chronic denervation or reinnervation. Exp Neurol. 1981 May;72(2):401-12.
Carraro U, Morale D, Mussini I, Lucke S, Cantini M, Betto R, Catani C, Dalla Libera L, Danieli Betto D, Noventa D. Chronic denervation of rat hemidiaphragm: maintenance of fiber heterogeneity with associated increasing uniformity of myosin isoforms. J Cell Biol. 1985 Jan;100(1):161-74.
Carraro U, Catani C, Belluco S, Cantini M, Marchioro L. Slow-like electrostimulation switches on slow myosin in denervated fast muscle. Exp Neurol. 1986 Dec;94(3):537-53.
Dangain J, Vrbova G. Long term effect of low frequency chronic electrical stimulation on the fast hind limb muscles of dystrophic mice. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1989 Dec;52(12):1382-9.
Scott OM, Hyde SA, Vrbová G, Dubowitz V. Therapeutic possibilities of chronic low frequency electrical stimulation in children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. J Neurol Sci. 1990 Feb;95(2):171-82.
Salmons S, Jarvis JC. Cardiac assistance from skeletal muscle: a critical appraisal of the various approaches. Br Heart J. 1992 Sep;68(3):333-8.
Russold MF, Ramnarine I, Ashley Z, Sutherland H, Salmons S, Jarvis JC. Practical and effective stomal sphincter creation: evaluation in pigs. Dis Colon Rectum. 2010 Apr;53(4):467-74.
Glenn WW, Phelps ML. Diaphragm pacing by electrical stimulation of the phrenic nerve. Neurosurgery. 1985 Dec;17(6):974-84.
Glenn WW, Hogan JF, Loke JS, Ciesielski TE, Phelps ML, Rowedder R. Ventilatory support by pacing of the conditioned diaphragm in quadriplegia. N Engl J Med. 1984 May 3;310(18):1150-5.
Skalsky AJ, Lesser DJ, McDonald CM. Evaluation of phrenic nerve and diaphragm function with peripheral nerve stimulation and M-mode ultrasonography in potential pediatric phrenic nerve or diaphragm pacing candidates. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2015 Feb;26(1):133-43.
Berger D, Bloechlinger S, von Haehling S, Doehner W, Takala J, Z'Graggen WJ, Schefold JC. Dysfunction of respiratory muscles in critically ill patients on the intensive care unit. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2016 Sep;7(4):403-12.
Marrero HDJG, Stålberg EV, Cooray G, Corpeno Kalamgi R, Hedström Y, Bellander BM, Nennesmo I, Larsson L. Neurogenic vs. Myogenic Origin of Acquired Muscle Paralysis in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Patients: Evaluation of Different Diagnostic Methods. Diagnostics (Basel). 2020 Nov 18;10(11):966.
Pette D, Müller W, Leisner E, Vrbová G. Time dependent effects on contractile properties, fibre population, myosin light chains and enzymes of energy metabolism in intermittently and continuously stimulated fast twitch muscles of the rabbit. Pflugers Arch. 1976 Jul 30;364(2):103-12.
Arpesella G, Carraro U, Mikus PM, Dozza F, Lombardi P, Marinelli G, Zampieri S, El Messlemani AH, Rossini K, Pierangeli A. Activity- rest stimulation of latissimus dorsi for cardiomyoplasty: 1-year results in sheep Ann Thorac Surg. 1998 Dec;66(6):1983-90.
Carraro U, Barbiero M, Docali G, Cotogni A, Rigatelli G, Casarotto D, Muneretto C. Demand dynamic cardiomyoplasty: mechanograms prove incomplete transformation of the rested latissimus dorsi. Ann Thorac Surg. 2000 Jul;70(1):67-73.
Rigatelli G, Carraro U, Barbiero M, Zanchetta M, Dimopoulos K, Cobelli F, Riccardi R, Rigatelli G. Activity-rest stimulation protocol improves cardiac assistance in dynamic cardiomyoplasty.Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2002 Mar;21(3):478-82.
Rigatelli G, Rigatelli G, Barbiero M, Cotogni A, Bandello A, Riccardi R, Carraro U. "Demand" stimulation of latissimus dorsi heart wrap: experience in humans and comparison with adynamic girdling. Ann Thorac Surg. 2003 Nov;76(5):1587-92.
Rigatelli G, Carraro U, Riccardi R, Rigatelli G. Demand dynamic biogirdling: ten-year results. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2009 Jan;137(1):e58-9.
Hofer C, Mayr W, Stöhr H, Unger E, Kern H. A stimulator for functional activation of denervated muscles. Artif Organs. 2002 Mar;26(3):276-9.
Kern H, Boncompagni S, Rossini K, Mayr W, Fanò G, Zanin ME, Podhorska-Okolow M, Protasi F, Carraro U. Long- term denervation in humans causes degeneration of both contractile and excitation-contraction coupling apparatus, which is reversible by functional electrical stimulation (FES): a role for myofiber regeneration? J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2004 Sep;63(9):919-31.
Kern H, Salmons S, Mayr W, Rossini K, Carraro U. Recovery of long-term denervated human muscles induced by electrical stimulation. Muscle Nerve. 2005 Jan;31(1):98-101.
Boncompagni S, Kern H, Rossini, Hofer C, Mayr W, Carraro U, Protasi F. Structural differentiation of skeletal muscle fibers in the absence of innervation in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Dec 4;104(49):19339-44.
Kern H, Carraro U, Adami N, Biral D, Hofer C, Forstner C, Mödlin M, Vogelauer M, Pond A, Boncompagni S, Paolini C, Mayr W, Protasi F, Zampieri S. Home-based functional electrical stimulation rescues permanently denervated muscles in paraplegic patients with complete lower motor neuron lesion. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2010 Oct;24(8):709-21.
Kern H, Carraro U, Adami N, Hofer C, Loefler S, Vogelauer M, Mayr W, Rupp R, Zampieri S. One year of home-based daily FES in complete lower motor neuron paraplegia: recovery of tetanic contractility drives the structural improvements of denervated muscle. Neurol Res. 2010 Feb;32(1):5- 12.
Albertin G, Ravara B, Kern H, Hofer C, Loefler S, Jurecka W, Guidolin D, Rambaldo A, Porzionato A, De Caro R, Zampieri S, Pond A, Alaibac M, Carraro U. Two-years of home based functional electrical stimulation recovers epidermis from atrophy and flattening after years of complete Conus-Cauda Syndrome. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Dec;98(52):e18509.
Kern H, Carraro U. Home-Based Functional Electrical Stimulation of Human Permanent Denervated Muscles: A Narrative Review on Diagnostics, Managements, Results and Byproducts Revisited 2020. Diagnostics (Basel). 2020, 10, 529.
Available online at 4418/10/8/529/s1, Video S1: Home-based Functional Electrical Stimulation (hbFES) assisted stand-up exercise.
Al-Amood WS, Lewis DM, Schmalbruch H. Effects of chronic electrical stimulation on contractile properties of long-term denervated rat skeletal muscle. J Physiol. 1991 Sep;441:243-56.
Dulhunty AF, Gage PW. Excitation-contraction coupling and charge movement in denervated rat extensor digitorum longus and soleus muscle. J Physiol. 1985 Jan;358:75-89.
Kobayashi J, Mackinnon SE, Watanabe O. The effect of duration of muscle denervation on functional recovery in the rat model. Muscle Nerve. 1997 Jul;20(7):858-66.
Nightingale EJ, Raymond J, Middleton JW, Crosbie J, Davis GM. Benefits of FES gait in a spinal cord injured population. Spinal Cord. 2007 Oct;45(10):646-57.
Mödlin M, Mayr W, Vindigni V, Zampieri S, Boncompagni S, Protasi F, Carraro U. Stable muscle atrophy in long-term paraplegics with complete upper motor neuron lesion from 3- to 20- year SCI. Spinal Cord. 2008 Apr;46(4):293-304.
Squecco R, Carraro U, Kern H, Pond A, Adami N, Biral D, Vindigni V, Boncompagni S, Pietrangelo T, Bosco G, Fanò G, Marini M, Abruzzo PM, Germinario E, Danieli-Betto D, Protasi F, Francini F, Zampieri S. A subpopulation of rat muscle fibers maintains an assessable excitation-contraction coupling mechanism after long-standing denervation despite lost contractility. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2009 Dec;68(12):1256-68.
Gerta Vorbová interview. Available on-line at the YOUTUBE link:
Lowrie MB, Krishnan S, Vrbová G. Recovery of slow and fast muscles following nerve injury during early post-natal development in the rat. J Physiol. 1982 Oct;331:51-66.
Connold AL, Evers JV, Vrbová G. Effect of low calcium and protease inhibitors on synapse elimination during postnatal development in the rat soleus muscle. Brain Res. 1986 Jul;393(1):99-107.
Greensmith L, Vrbová G. Neuromuscular contacts in the developing rat soleus depend on muscle activity. Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 1991 Sep 19;62(1):121-9.
Navarrete R, Vrbová G. Differential effect of nerve injury at birth on the activity pattern of reinnervated slow and fast muscles of the rat. J Physiol. 1984 Jun;351:675-85.
Nógrádi A, Vrbová G. The use of a neurotoxic lectin, volkensin, to induce loss of identified motoneuron pools. Neuroscience. 1992 Oct;50(4):975-86.
Sieradzan K, Vrbová G. Replacement of missing motoneurons by embryonic grafts in the rat spinal cord. Neuroscience. 1989;31(1):115-30.
Scott OM, Vrbová G, Hyde SA, Dubowitz V. Effects of chronic low frequency electrical stimulation on normal human tibialis anterior muscle. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1985 Aug;48(8):774-81.
McKay WB, Stokic DS, Sherwood AM, Vrbova G, Dimitrijevic MR. Effect of fatiguing maximal voluntary contraction on excitatory and inhibitory responses elicited by transcranial magnetic motor cortex stimulation. Muscle Nerve. 1996 Aug;19(8):1017-24.
Hausmanowa-Petrusewicz I, Vrbová G. Spinal muscular atrophy: a delayed development hypothesis. Neuroreport. 2005 May 12;16(7):657- 61.

How to Cite

Carraro, U. (2021). Gerta Vrbová, a guide and a friend for a generation of neuro-myologists – Her scientific legacies and relations with colleagues. European Journal of Translational Myology, 31(1).