A novel, fully automatic, adaptive, robust procedure for brain tissue classification from 3D magnetic resonance head images (MRI) is described in this paper. The procedure is adaptive in that it customizes a training set, by using a 'pruning' strategy, such that the classification is robust against anatomical variability and pathology. Starting from a set of samples generated from prior tissue probability maps (a 'model') in a standard, brain-based coordinate system ('stereotaxic space'), the method first reduces the fraction of incorrectly labeled samples in this set by using a minimum spanning tree graph-theoretic approach. Then, the corrected set of samples is used by a supervised kNN classifier for classifying the entire 3D image. The classification procedure is robust against variability in the image quality through a non-parametric implementation: no assumptions are made about the tissue intensity distributions. The performance of this brain tissue classification procedure is demonstrated through quantitative and qualitative validation experiments on both simulated MRI data (10 subjects) and real MRI data (43 subjects). A significant improvement in output quality was observed on subjects who exhibit morphological deviations from the model due to aging and pathology.