A systematic photoelectron spectromicroscopy study is presented of the spatial distribution of a toxic element, aluminium, iron or chromium, in neuron cultures, after exposure to a solution of the element. The study was performed by the X-ray secondary-emission microscopy (XSEM) version of photoelectron spectromicroscopy. The distribution of the elements was investigated with two complementary approaches: digital subtraction imaging and individual X-ray absorption spectra from microscopic areas. The results coherently indicate different localization patterns for different elements, and, in particular, extreme localization of aluminium to a few rare cells identifiable as Purkinje neurons. In the case of iron-exposed specimens, the distribution analysis was extended to naturally present phosphorus, and used to estimate the XSEM sensitivity.