A novel hybrid algorithm for the tissue segmentation of brain magnetic resonance images is proposed. The core of the algorithm is a probabilistic neural network (PNN) in which weighting factors are added to the summation layer, such that partial volume effects can be taken into account in the modeling process. The mean vectors for the probability density function estimation and the corresponding weighting factors are generated by a hierarchical scheme involving a self-organizing map neural network and an expectation maximization algorithm. Unlike conventional PNN, this approach circumvents the need for training sets. Tissue segmentation results from various algorithms are compared and the effectiveness and robustness of the proposed approach are demonstrated.