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Image thresholding is an important technique for image processing and pattern recognition. Several thresholding techniques have been proposed in the literature. In this paper for segmentation of magnetic resonance images, a novel method using a combination of the multilevel thresholding algorithm and the hierarchical evolutionary algorithm (HEA) is proposed. The HEA can be viewed as a variant of conventional genetic algorithms. The proposed technique is based on the participle swarm optimization (PSO) and, in fact, is an unsupervised clustering method based on an automatic multilevel thresholding approach. One advantage of the proposed method is that the number of clusters in the given image does not need to be known in advance. We evaluate and validate performance of the proposed method using simulation studies. The simulation results show that the accuracy of the proposed method is about 96%.