From all the descriptions, the Imperius curse seems to have a purely mental effect.

Yet, when it is demonstrated by Barty Crouch Jr. masquerading as Alastor Moody in a DADA lesson, that curse seems to actually change a person's physical abilities:

Neville performed a series of quite astonishing gymnastics he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state. (GoF, page 150)

How is that possible if Imperius only affects a person's thinking and not their muscles?


2 Answers 2


I don't have cannon backup, but I suspect it's related to something often seen in possessions in fiction; your physical limits are far beyond what you normally make use of.

You have reflex/habit/learned behaviors that limit what you do, pain being the normal warning sign. But if something were to control you and not receive / respond to the limiting triggers, you could perform far beyond your normal abilities. You would damage yourself over time, as those limits are learned for a reason. (Think of what people on PCP are known to do; impressive physical feats, but at great cost.)

'Pushing' yourself in exercise is attempting to expand the range of those abilities; you get the feedback warning of danger/damage, but you ignore it.. a bit. Overdo it, and you hurt yourself. Severe pain can stop you, regardless of you plans.

Neville was given instructions by someone who didn't get the physical/mental feedback, and simply obeyed, having no choice, regardless of feedback from his body. In the short run, it probably did little more than give him muscle aches.. But long term, pushing him 'past his limits' would cause harm.

(A light form of it could make a lovely exercise program, I suppose.)

  • 1
    I suddenly have an image of magical gymnasts being Imperiused by their coaches.
    – Steam
    Aug 3, 2012 at 12:51
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    In addition to the physical limits, it would remove confidence issues too. In Neville's case, even if were physically strong enough to do something like a back handspring, he isn't exactly portrayed as an athlete and I could see some self-doubt normally messing him up in the middle of it.
    – Windle
    Aug 6, 2012 at 15:55

The mind controls the body. The essential words are "he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state". Think of the Imperius curse as making a person do a series of actions. The specifics are handled by the curse itself. All you have to do is give the proper instructions.

  • 1
    No matter WHAT instructions you give me, I can not do a full split. Aug 1, 2012 at 10:04
  • 1
    True. But you'll come as close as physically possible. Aug 1, 2012 at 11:33

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