We show that photoelectron spectromicroscopy with synchrotron radiation has been successfully exported from materials science to the life sciences. The transfer is well beyond mere feasibility tests. Photoelectron spectromicroscopy is in fact used for real, long-term studies in neurobiology. Specific examples are discussed, first to see in practice some applications to microchemical analysis of physiologic elements, and then to discuss present and future instrumentation development issues. This last point is illustrated by briefly presenting the MEPHISTO project and the CERVIN project for the Swiss Light Source. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.