We review the central tenets and neuroanatomical basis of the global neuronal workspace (GNW) hypothesis, which attempts to account for the main scientific observations regarding the elementary mechanisms of conscious processing in the human brain. The GNW hypothesis proposes that, in the conscious state, a non-linear network ignition associated with recurrent processing amplifies and sustains a neural representation, allowing the corresponding information to be globally accessed by local processors. We examine this hypothesis in light of recent data that contrast brain activity evoked by either conscious or non-conscious contents, as well as during conscious or non-conscious states, particularly general anesthesia. We also discuss the relationship between the intertwined concepts of conscious processing, attention, and working memory. Mashour et al. review more than two decades of research on the global neuronal workspace theory of conscious processing; examine recent data related to unconscious states; and present a synthesis that links conscious access, attention, and working memory.