Q&A with Elia Nikolaev, founder of Brain Excel in Solana Beach

Brain Excel founder Elia Nikolaev holding a neurofeedback session.

Brain Excel, which opened its facility in Solana Beach this month, wants to offer North County residents an alternative method of improving their brain function using neurofeedback, a noninvasive method of reinforcing brainwaves that promote wellbeing. The clinic’s founder, Elia Nikolaev, has said that neurofeedback improved his own mood, sleep and focus.

Some of the other offerings at Brain Excel include yoga wall classes, yoga therapy, meditation, breath work, nutrition, and individualized health and fitness counseling.

Neurofeedback has been practiced for several decades, but many studies suggest that more rigorous study is needed to conclusively determine its potential benefits.

Answers were lightly edited for clarity.

Q. What is your background and where did you get the idea to open Brain Excel?

Nikolaev: I’ve been involved in the field of wellness, health, human performance and human optimization for 15 years. My foray into it was yoga and yoga therapy. So I have extensive training in yoga therapy, which included some study and apprenticeships in India, and then also I have a formal yoga therapy education from Loyola Marymount University. That led me to inquire into deeper, more psychological aspects of wellbeing. I went to study hypnosis after that. From hypnosis, I remember I heard years ago about this field of neurofeedback. And I just kind of put it out of mind until just recently because of the pandemic, and because of the closure of fitness studios and the whole social distancing part of our new way of life made me rethink how I planned to extend my career into the future. And so I came back to this. I’ve been studying the nervous system for a long time. I honed in and I got hooked up with Peak Brain Institute in Los Angeles. The founder there is Dr. Andrew Hill. And so I’ve had direct tutelage from him about neurofeedback, about applications of neurofeedback, neuroscience. Then I wanted to open a business because I wanted to offer something different. And now Brain Excel is a different center than you can find anywhere in the world, that blends yoga, fitness, health and neurofeedback all under one roof.

Q: What are some of the common issues that people come to you for?

Nikolaev: The most common issues, especially that neurofeedback helps with, is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), migraines and anxiety. ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD are becoming more and more prevalent these days, especially in children, and mostly because of all the multitasking that people are doing. Also because of the electronic devices that we’re inundated with, which have created almost like a waterfall of ADD in the country.

Q: Are there any particular demographics that you’re looking to serve?

Nikolaev: Not really, not yet. There are a couple different directions that people can go to take neurofeedback. They can either take it toward peak performance and optimization, which would apply it for athletes and people who are not in pain, they don’t have pathologies, they want the next level of performance. Or it could be something for senior citizens to create a little bit better cognitive performance. Or working with the PTSD
(post-traumatic stress disorder) population or the ADHD populations. I haven’t really found that niche because I just opened. My direction is I want to get more kids in here, because that’s the future, and children are not doing too well these days with their mental health.

Q: Does neurofeedback serve as a supplement to medical treatment that people would typically seek for some of those issues?

Nikolaev: Neurofeedback is done in combination with medicine and traditional medical intervention. I can’t say it would supplement it outright, but I do believe personally that it does and it should supplement it.

Q: Do you have any particular short- or long-term goals for Brain Excel?

Nikolaev: One thing is just getting the word out more. Education is going to be the key, because a lot of people haven’t even heard of neurofeedback, let alone know what it’s about. The onus is on me to help spread the education about what it is. Drug companies are making a lot of money and it’s not in their interest to promote people that are promoting neurofeedback because if more people use neurofeedback, that means more people will get off medication. So education, to me, seems to be the best solution.

Brain Excel is located at 538 Stevens Ave. in Solana Beach. For more information, visit brainexcelsd.com.